Understanding Town Meeting:
- Town Meeting Procedures
- Town Bylaws related to Town Meeting
- Statutes of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts related to Town Meeting
- Who's Who list of Town Officials, Boards and Committees
- Glossary of Budget Terms used at Town Meeting
- Town Meeting Warrants and Results
If you need further information, you can contact the Town Clerk or Town Manager. An ombudsman is present at all Town Meetings to assist voters in wording amendments and answer questions on procedures.
The Town of Andover has an Open Town Meeting form of government meaning that any registered voter may vote at Town Meeting. Andover's Town Charter also includes an appointed Town Manager, and the following elected offices: five member Board of Selectmen, five member School Committee, a Moderator, a five member Housing Authority, a five member Punchard Free School Trustee Board and a member of the Regional Vocational School.
Town Meeting is the legislative body of the Town. It convenes, at least annually at the time and place designated by the Selectmen. Town Meeting considers and adopts an annual operating budget. It also considers and acts upon other matters which require Town Meeting action such as zoning changes, street acceptances, by-law additions and amendments. The business of each Town Meeting is contained in a document known as "the warrant" which includes all matters on which the Town must act. The warrant is published in at least one local paper and mailed to all registered voters within a Finance Committee Report in advance of the Town Meeting. Articles are inserted in the warrant by the Board of Selectmen and by Citizen Petition. The order is determined by the Selectmen.
Town Meeting is unique to New England. We hope that the following information will help you become an informed participant in this basic democratic process that is our legislative form of government.
Town Meeting Procedures
How to place an article on the Town Meeting Warrant
Any resident can place a private article on the Annual Town Meeting Warrant by submitting a warrant article form. This form is used as petition for ten (10) registered voters who sign to have an article appear on the Warrant. The Warrant for the Annual Town Meeting is opened and closed by the Board of Selectmen. This takes place in early November through late January. Please contact the Town Clerk's Office for the precise dates for the current year. However, the Town Clerk will accept articles for the Warrant in proper form earlier than the open date if necessary. The articles are filed and stamped in by the Town Clerk's office and transferred along with Town warrant articles to the Board of Selectmen to process for the Town Meeting.
Once the Warrant is closed by the Board of Selectmen, articles that have not made that time line will be placed on the next meeting. If the Board of Selectmen reopen the Warrant, articles being held for another meeting will be submitted at that time. The Board of Selectmen rarely reopens a Warrant and residents should watch the newspaper or our website for Town Calendar announcements about meetings or call the Town Clerk's Office for information.
After the articles have been placed on the Warrant for a Town Meeting, the articles go through a series of committee and department reviews and hearings. Different boards and committees are responsible for a report at Town Meeting of their findings depending on whose jurisdiction the article will fall under.
For instance, all money articles are reviewed by the Finance Committee at hearings that take place after the closing of the Warrant. A report on their findings are given at Town Meeting when the article is addressed. Residents are welcome to attend these hearings to explain their article to the committee. More discussion will be generated on the floor of Town Meeting before any action is taken by the Town Meeting members.
- Suggestions regarding Submitting a Private Warrant Article Form.
How to place an article on a Special Town Meeting Warrant
From time to time, but especially in the Fall, the Town will call a Special Town Meeting. Special Town Meetings are usually called to take care of any unforeseen emergencies that occur between Annual Town Meetings. These meetings, because of the nature of the articles, are usually called over a shorter period of time and the warrant is not open as long.
To place an article on a Special Town Meeting Warrant, residents need one hundred signatures of registered voters and follow the same procedures as the above.
Residents may petition the Selectmen to call a Special Town Meeting and to insert in the Warrant all subjects specified in the petition. This requires the signatures of two hundred registered voters, but otherwise follows the procedures as above.
How to enter Town Meeting Hall
All Town Meetings are usually held on the campus of Andover High School on Shawsheen Road at the Field House or the Collins Center depending on the number of expected voters at a meeting. Registered voters may enter the hall after receiving a meeting member sticker from their precinct election official. Each registered voter that attends Town Meeting must have their name crossed off the voter list before he/she can enter the hall.
Unregistered voters may attend the meeting but may not vote. They must register with an election official upon entering the meeting. The Moderator will take a vote of the meeting to allow non registered voters to enter the hall and all non registered voters that are not Town Officials will sit in a special section of the Hall so as not to interfere with the voting process.
How to move a private warrant article at Town Meeting
All private warrant articles must be moved by a registered voter on the floor of Town Meeting. Articles are taken up in the order determined by the Board of Selectmen. For each meeting there is always a final date for voter registration to enable new residents to attend the meeting. Call the Town Clerk's Office for voter registration details or check with this website and your local newspapers.
How to be recognized to speak
A voter may be recognized by standing and saying, "Mr. Moderator." Before making any remarks the speaker must give his or her name and address.
How to make a motion and amend an article
Amendments must be presented to the Moderator in writing (three copies). After discussion on the amendment the Moderator calls for a vote on the amendment only. If passed the original motion as amended is voted upon. Amendments to amendments are usually ruled out of order. Motions or amendments which differ materially from that printed in the warrant must be given to the voters in writing at the time of consideration, or shown on a screen readable by all voters. Motions to table are used rarely.
Budget questions - Questions on the budget are encouraged. A voter may address the Moderator on any line item in the finance committee report. Amendments can be offered and will be voted on individually.
Majority Vote - Unless otherwise provided all motions require a majority vote to carry.
Declaring the Vote - The Moderator may decide the sense of the meeting by a voice vote. If in doubt, or, if the decision is questioned, a standing vote may be called for. A voter may request a standing vote.
Privileged Motions - A speaker may be interrupted only for a point of order, a question of the legality of a motion, or a question to clarify information.
Previous Question - Previous question is a formal motion which, if passed, cuts off debate. The motion is not debatable. It is allowed by the Moderator when in his judgment the matter has been adequately discussed. .
Reconsideration - Reconsideration is rarely used and only to correct an oversight or an illegality
Visual Displays - Voters who wish to show slides or present other visual material should make arrangements before the meeting. Contact the Assistant Town Manager at the Town Offices to make arrangements for Town Meeting Visuals.
Adjourn / Dissolve - A meeting may adjourn to a later time and a different place, but when a meeting is dissolved it is finished. A meeting may not be dissolved until every article in the warrant has been acted upon.
Pro/Con Microphones - The Moderator will sometimes call for the use of Pro/Con Microphones to help organize the debate on controversial articles.
Time Limits - A motion could be made at the opening of Town Meeting to limit the time for presentations to five (5) minutes and speakers to the article three (3) minutes (or any combination thereof). A motion for time limits is usually made to cover the entire duration of the meeting. It is generally a good idea to use this as a guide for any presentations to Town Meeting members.
By-Law Constraints On Town Meeting
Town Meeting Schedule - The Annual Town Meeting for the election of officers shall be held on the fourth Tuesday in March, each year. Andover has regularly adjourned its Town Meeting after the election to a later time for consideration of the rest of the Warrant. Special Town Meetings may be held at such times and places as the Selectmen may designate. Any meeting may be adjourned from time to time to any place in the Town.
Warrants - Attested copies of the Warrant shall be posted in or on the Town Hall and in at least one newspaper of general circulation within the Town fourteen days or more before the date of the meeting. The warrant for insertion of articles shall be open for not fewer than thirty-five consecutive calendar days, but the Selectmen may reopen the warrant if required.
Annual Town Report - At least seven days before the annual meeting the Town Manager shall make available to all registered voters an annual report. A summary of the report shall be delivered to each Andover household at least seven days before the Annual Meeting, or may be included in the Finance Committee's Report.
Vote by Ballot - A motion for a secret ballot is in order and requires approval of 25% of those voting.
Admission of other than registered voters - Only Andover residents who are registered voters are allowed in the voting sections of Town Meeting. Unregistered voters and non residents may request admission by submitting their names and addresses to the Moderator through election officials at the entrance of Town Meeting. They may be admitted by a majority vote of those present. The Moderator shall designate a place set apart from the general assembly where such persons may sit. The Moderator shall also set apart a space where accredited representatives of the press shall sit.
Disclosure of Interest - Any person having a monetary or equitable interest in any matter under discussion at any Town Meeting or employed by another having such as interest shall disclose the fact before speaking thereon.
Statutory Constraints On Town Meeting
(Refer to Chapter 39 of the Massachusetts General Laws for Precise Wording)
The annual Town Meeting shall be held in February, March, April, or May.
The Selectmen shall insert in the warrant all articles requested in writing by ten or more registered voters. The warrant shall be published and posted at least seven days before the meeting stating the time and the place of the meeting and the subjects to be acted on.
The town may establish by by-law the number of votes that constitutes a quorum. At present a quorum is not required.
A Moderator must be elected to preside over the meeting, regulate proceedings, decide all questions of order, and make public declaration of all votes. If a vote is questioned by seven or more voters, statute requires a standing vote. If the statutes require a standing vote the count shall be taken and the result shall be recorded by the Clerk. If the vote is unanimous the count need not be taken and the Clerk shall so record it.
No person shall address a Town Meeting without leave of the Moderator and all persons shall, at the request of the Moderator, be silent.
Who's Who At Town Meeting
Town Meeting Members - All registered voters may participate in Andover's Open Town Meeting. Participants display prominently ribbons or badges which are given out at the beginning of the meeting and returned at its conclusion.
The Moderator - presides over and conducts the meeting. He is an elected official.
Town Clerk - Is the chief election official, custodian of the Town's records, and recording secretary of the meeting.
Board of Selectmen - (5) Elected policy making body, appoints Town Manager and compiles the warrant.
Town Manager - Appointed by the Board of Selectmen, the Manager prepares the budget and submits it to the Selectmen and the Finance Committee on or before a date certain. A voter may direct questions to the Manager relating to the budget or to warrant articles.
Finance Director - Has primary responsibility for the budget, reports to the Town Manager, and is an information resource at the meeting.
Finance Committee - (9) Appointed by the Moderator, it reviews the budget, makes recommendations on all financial matters, prepares and distributes to all Andover households a printed report of its recommendations and other relevant information, to assist Town Meeting in making final decisions.
School Committee - (5) Elected and responsible for the operation of the educational system, prepares the school budget, appoints the Superintendent, and defines educational philosophy and policy.
Superintendent of Schools - Chief executive officer for implementing school committee policy and directives.
Town Counsel - Chief legal officer and legal advisor to the Town Meeting.
Planning Board - (5) Appointed by the Manager with the approval of the Board of Selectmen, it advises Town Meeting on a range of planning and zoning matters.
Conservation Commission - (7) Appointed by the Manager as custodian of Town owned conservation land. It recommends land acquisitions to the Meeting.
Greater Lawrence Regional Vocational School - (1) Member elected as Andover representative to that school's committee. Explains Andover's share of operating costs.
Budget Terms Used At Town Meeting
Budget - A financial plan for a given period of time embodying both estimates of proposed expenditures and the proposed means of financing them.
Fiscal Year - Cities and towns in Massachusetts operate on a fiscal year which begins July 1 and ends June 30. The number of the fiscal year is the calendar year when it ends.
Levy Limit - Under Proposition 2 1/2 the maximum amount that a community can raise in property taxes is 2.5% more than the maximum it was allowed to raise for the prior fiscal year plus growth revenue.
Growth Revenue - The amount of property tax revenue a community can add to its tax levy by taxing new construction. It is computed using the prior year's tax rate.
Excess Levy Capacity - The difference between a community's maximum tax levy limit and the amount it actually levies in property taxes.
Free Cash - The amount of surplus revenue over and above uncollected taxes as of July 1 of each year as certified by the State. It is available for appropriation by Town Meeting.
Overlay - The overlay is the amount raised by the Assessors independently of Town Meeting as permitted by law for the purpose of creating a fund to cover property tax abatements and avoid fractions in the tax rate.
Reserve Fund - The fund established by the voters at Annual Town Meeting for extraordinary or unforeseen expenditures. Transfers from the Reserve Fund require the approval of the Finance Committee.
Cherry Sheet - Named for the cherry colored paper on which the Massachusetts Department of Revenue traditionally printed it on, the cherry sheet details the estimated state aid to be received by the Town along with the County and State assessments to be paid.
Conservation Fund - The fund established by Town Meeting several years ago for the purpose of acquiring land for conservation purposes. The Town has made periodic appropriations to the fund. The fund is administered by the Conservation Commission.
Compensation Fund - A reserve for salary adjustments that may occur during the fiscal year. Transfers from the Compensation Fund require the approval of the Board of Selectmen.
Override - A referendum procedure in which a community by popular vote can either increase its levy limit (general override) or collect property taxes in excess of its levy limit to finance specific capital expenditures (debt exclusion or capital outlay exclusion overrides).
Town Meeting Warrants and Results
- 2013 Annual Town Meeting Warrant and Results
- 2012 Annual Town Meeting Warrant and Results
- Special Town Meeting Results - 12/5/11
- 2011 Annual Town Meeting Warrant and Results
- Special Town Meeting Results - 12/6/10
- 2010 Annual Town Meeting Warrant and Results
- Special Town Meeting Results - 10/7/09
- Special Town Meeting Results - 8/31/09
- 2009 Annual Town Meeting Warrant and Results
- 2008 Annual Town Meeting Warrant and Results
- 2007 Annual Town Meeting Warrant and Results; Special TM Warrant - 4/24/07
- 2006 Annual Town Meeting Warrant and Results
- 2005 Annual Town Meeting Warrant and Results; Special TM Warrant - 9/27/05
- 2004 Annual Town Meeting Results