Because there will be no in-person Town Meeting in March, there will be no opportunities for people to amend the budget from the floor. To keep the public in the loop and to provide a way for people to comment on the proposed budget as it is developed, the town will hold two budget forums in January.
At those remote forums on January 18 and 25, people will be able to ask questions about any line items or lobby for increased or decreased spending in particular areas. Additionally, the town will likely be sending two mailed pieces to voters letting them know about the switch to Australian ballot for the 2021 Town Meeting and alerting them to the budget process.
Town administrator Trevor Lashua said the town planned to use grant funding, related to COVID-19 relief grants to cover the costs of the mailers.
Lashua said that the town was waiting for the Legislature to take action and adopt legislation that makes all voting by absentee or mail-in ballot for Town Meeting -- as was done for the November general election. Alternately, he said, towns could take that action independently. If the Legislature takes action, the state will cover the cost of mailing out the ballots.
The Legislature may also give towns the ability to postpone their Town Meetings until warmer months in hopes that people could meet in-person and outside. Lashua said the select board was less inclined to postpone the annual meeting due to concerns about bumping up against the end of the fiscal year on June 30.
The town will need to warn its budget by January 31 and once it is warned it cannot be amended and must be voted on as warned at Town Meeting on March 2. The town will hold a remote pre-Town Meeting on March 1 that is strictly a Q and A session.
Waitsfield’s regular Town Meeting moderator, Brian Shupe, was elected to the select board last March. In a non-pandemic year, a new moderator would be elected from the floor of Town Meeting at the beginning of the meeting.
“That’s a trick we’re trying to figure out for the pre-Town Meeting. How do we elect or appoint one since it’s not legal to have a meeting where a voice vote is held by a remote platform,” he said.