(from Massachusetts Secretary of State)
One of the hallmarks of New England is citizen participation in the running of local government. Since Colonial days, the operation of Massachusetts town governments has been prescribed by an annual gathering of townspeople. The Annual Town Meeting, as this institution is known, continues to be a vital part of today's political landscape and provides one of the few contemporary examples of genuine grass roots democracy in operation.
Town Meeting Date: Tolland holds its Annual Town Meetings between April and June (usually June). The general purposes are to establish an annual operating budget and to consider amendments or revisions to town bylaws or policies (including the management of finances).
The Warrant: The business of Town Meeting is governed by a document called the Warrant. The Warrant is a notice containing the time, place and agenda for the Town Meeting. Each item of town business to be discussed is presented in the Warrant as a separate and distinct Article. The Warrant is posted at the Town Hall, Dump/Transfer Station, Library, North Tolland Bulletin Boards and on www.tolland-ma.gov.
Warrant Posting for Town Meetings and Elections: Posted seven (7) days in advance.
Special Town Meetings: Posted ten (10) days in advance.
The Warrant for the Town Meeting is prepared by the Board of Selectmen with input from other Town departments and officials. The Finance Advisory Committee and the Board of Selectmen prepare the annual operating budget and all articles to be included in the Warrant.
Citizen Request for Articles in the Warrant for the Town Meeting: As a further example of the democratic nature of the process, state law reserves for the townspeople the right to petition the Board of Selectmen to place Articles in the Warrant. If the Board of Selectmen receives a written petition, submitted by ten or more registered voters, the item which is the subject of the petition must be presented as an Article in the Warrant.
The Role of the Moderator: The Town Meeting is conducted by an elected Moderator. The Moderator maintains order while methodically moving through the Articles of the Warrant. The Town Clerk keeps the record of the meeting, and the town counsel usually is present to provide legal guidance.
Who May Participate: In Tolland, all residents who registered to vote at least twenty days before the date of the Town Meeting may attend and actively participate in the Annual Town Meeting and the Annual Town Election. Participation can range from passive observance, to offering motions on Articles in the Warrant, to good old-fashioned political oratory. The Town Meeting is also open to the public.
The Annual Town Election: The Annual Town Election is always held before the Annual Town Meeting to elect town officers. Notice is posted seven (7) days in advance of the Elections.
What if an issue arises after the Town Meeting: Special Town Meetings: If an important town issue arises after the Annual Town Meeting is adjourned, the town may hold a Special Town Meeting. A Special Town Meeting must be called if the Board of Selectmen receives a written petition, signed by two hundred registered voters or twenty percent of the total number of registered voters in the town (whichever number is the lesser). The process is essentially the same as with the Annual Town Meeting, except that the Warrant for a Special Town Meeting must be posted at least fourteen days in advance of the meeting.
Finance Advisory Committee - Roles and Responsibilities: Tolland’s finance committee is called the Finance Advisory Committee. The Advisory Committee is comprised of five residents appointed by the Board of Selectmen to serve three-year terms. Throughout the course of the Town Meeting, the chairman of the Advisory Committee voices the committee's recommendations on the Articles and any related motions. (The Advisory Committee also can authorize the release of money from the Reserve Fund in emergencies