Town Meeting 2013

It’s that time of year when towns in New Hampshire start assembling the warrant articles for their town and school district meetings.

My little town has a school district deliberative meeting tonight and the town deliberative meeting tomorrow night. In both of these meetings the registered voters and other interested parties will review and, if necessary, amend the various warrant articles that will appear on the town ballot next month.

Our town does things a little differently than some of the others, where our school district and town meetings are split up into two different sessions – the deliberative and the voting. Other towns still hold traditional school and town meetings where the deliberation, amendments, and voting are each performed at in a single session. Each form of meeting has its advantages and disadvantages. Each town decides how they want to conduct their respective meetings.

It is at these two meetings where the taxpayers in our town will decide where their tax dollars are spent over the upcoming fiscal year. It is here where we can see exactly how spending will affect our property taxes. It is here where we can debate face to face the merits of some expenditures, question the need for other kinds of spending, as well as decide what ordinances will be in effect that direct everything from how the town will bid out contracts to property line setbacks to the types of businesses we will allow and where they can be located. (We really don’t want a strip club next to the schools, do we?)

In the end it is those of us who want a say in how our town and schools are run and funded that “git ‘er done”. It also gives those of us who take the time to do so that can tell the others who can’t be bothered to vote on these issues to pound sand if they don’t like how something was done. As the saying goes, “If you didn’t go to town meeting and vote, you have no right to complain.”

While we don’t get a huge number of people showing up at the school district and town deliberative sessions (usually somewhere between 200 and 400 people), voter turnout for the town elections the following month can total many times that number, meaning a goodly portion of the registered voters in town actually showed up at the polls. Keeping that in mind, they usually get it right…but not always. Then again no one ever said democracy was easy or without error.