Yes, it is only the beginning of February but boards, committees and staff are very busy getting ready for the April 6 Annual Town Meeting as well as Town Elections scheduled for May 19. (By Town Bylaw, the Annual Town Meeting is held the first Monday in April and the Annual Town Elections the third Tuesday in May.)
Over the next few weeks, the final touches will be made to the proposed budget that voters will be asked to approve as well as the various articles. As noted previously, the deadline for any citizen petition article is February 6. Another public forum on the draft town budget will be held during the next Selectmen’s meeting on February 18. The Finance Committee, which is meeting every Wednesday evening, will wrap up its recommendations by early March in order to get their report off to the printer in time for delivery to all households by the end of March.
Budgets adjustments to date have lowered total expenditures slightly from the preliminary budget released in December. The proposed budget assumes that voters wish to see the same level of services continue and that they are willing to shoulder a 2.5% increase in taxes to sustain these services. No new debt is anticipated though we will be continuing our efforts to reinvest in the town’s neglected infrastructure on a cash basis.
Non-budget related articles for Town Meeting are in the early stages of being developed and will be finalized by early March as well. Topics include authority to bill property owners for unpaid utility bills by their tenants, charging a local room tax on short term rentals, simplifying the process for appointing new trustees to the Town’s Affordable Housing Trust, and moving the date for the Annual Town Meeting and Town Elections a few weeks later. (Our dates are relatively early and require proposing new budgets before various costs are known.) These will articles will be more fully vetted at the next two Selectmen’s meetings.
Regarding Town Elections, nine positions will be on the ballot. The nine are: Town Moderator, two Selectmen, one School Committee member, a Library Trustee, three Planning Board members (two for a three year term and one for a two year term,) and a Housing Authority member. Nomination papers for each of these nine positions are now available at the Town Clerk’s Office. In order for your name to appear on a Town Ballot, you need to return the nomination papers with at least 32 signatures from registered voters. The deadline for submitting nomination papers is 5:00PM on March 31st.
Serving as an elected official can be a very rewarding way to contribute to the vitality and smooth functioning of our community. No, it is not a ticket to riches (no elected officials are paid) but you do have the opportunity to shape policies and direct the future direction of the town. Maybe it is your turn to serve! Interested? Have questions? Feel free to stop by Town Hall and we would be happy to talk to you about the positions.
Greg Federspiel is Town Administrator in the Town of Manchester.