Town Meeting Day occurs on the first Tuesday of March. The majority of organised towns have one of these meetings annually on this specific day, unless voters choose to hold it earlier
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Town meetings are an opportunity for holding local elections, approving budgets, and other town business. In Vermont, all cities and even many towns function through charters rather than general legislation. Votes can be cast from the floor or by secret ballot in such meetings.
The History of Town Meeting Days
Town meetings are a kind of American direct democratic rule used extensively in New England. This format has been in use since the 17th century. It has always been used as a time for community members to gather, review budgets, and legislate policy in the local government.
In recent years, town meetings have come to include a greater geographic area in order to hold public meetings on particular issues. These kinds of meetings do not include voting on any kind of action, whether administrative or legislative. Town meetings can also be a forum where voters ask politicians questions.
Modern town meetings are especially designed to gain approval for town budgets by the plebiscite. The local government has an opportunity to explain the budget request to the voters as the principal business in the town meeting. Non-binding resolutions are also available for voters to vote on, giving the opportunity for voters to put items on the ballot for the next year’s Town Meeting Day.
Town Meeting Day in Vermont
The Vermont Secretary of State’s Citizen’s Guide to Town Meetings provides Vermont state employees a day off for this holiday. The law even enable privates employees to take unpaid leave from work so that he or she can attend the annual meeting. In this latter case, employees must inform employers at least a week in advance if he or she decides to use this right to attend the meeting.
Students of voting age are also allowed to attend the town meetings without consequence. Moderators are elected on these days and serve a one-year term. The moderator is responsible for reviewing the warning, also known as a published agenda. He or she is in charge of keeping order in the meetings and making a public declaration for each vote that has passed.
In Vermont, this day is considered a citizen’s right and the opportunity for Vermonters to have a voice in their government. It is a chance for the real people in a town to gather and discuss issues that are important to them and the community. Although most Vermont towns have official Town Meeting Days, here are a few of the oldest towns in Vermont with a history of the holiday:
- Windsor: Chartered as a town in 1761, Windsor currently has a population of over 3,500 people.
- Springfield: This town was also chartered in 1761 and has a population of over 9,000.
- Grafton: Originally founded as Thomlinson, this small town’s renaming rights were auctioned off in 1791.
Town Meeting Day is certainly a unique New England holiday that is recognised in the state of Vermont. Rather than a day for celebration, Town Meeting Day is a day for gathering and making collective decisions in the local government. If you find yourself in Vermont on this one day of the year, just be aware that many businesses may be closed and many local may be gathered in the town hall or meeting room. This is a special day for American democracy.