Town Meeting Process
The Town of Allenstown has adopted the Official Ballot form of town meeting as authorized by RSA 40:13. This form of town meeting is commonly referred to as SB2 or Senate Bill 2 for the original legislation creating this form of meeting. The Official Ballot form of meeting is different than the traditional town meeting in that the process is divided into two meetings instead of one for the traditional town meeting. The two meetings consist of the first meeting or deliberative session and the second session commonly referred to as the voting session. The annual town meeting adopts the annual budget, approves changes to the zoning and building codes, enacts or amends town ordinances, and acts on all other matters authorized by law for which there are many. The annual school district meeting operates in a very similar fashion normally on the same day either before or after the town meeting.
The deliberative session (first session) falls during the last week of January or the first week of February of each year depending upon the calendar. During this session registered voters meet to discuss the various warrant articles submitted by the Board of Selectmen or by citizen petition. This meeting allows the voters another opportunity to learn more about the proposed operating budget and discuss the other warrant articles for the first time. Voters who attend this meeting can amend those articles which can be amended by law. The proposed amounts of some of the articles can be amended by voters at this meeting. However voters cannot change or eliminate the purpose of an article. The budget and warrant articles are not approved by the voters at this meeting that is done at the second session.
The voting session (second session) is always the second Tuesday in March. Voters go to the polls anytime during the period the polls are open (usually 8 am to 7 pm) and vote by ballot on the articles from the deliberative session. Some of the articles may have been amended at the deliberative session. There is no opportunity at this second session to discuss or amend the articles. The ballot allows for a yes or no vote on each article. The second session is the ballot vote for all elected town offices. Voters will also vote on the school district warrant articles as well as candidates for school district elected offices. Passage of warrant articles requires a majority vote on most matters however some require a supermajority depending upon the issue such as long term borrowing (bond article).
The town approves an operating budget on an annual basis. The budget period for the town is a calendar year or January 1st through December 31st. The school district operates on a different budget year which is July 1st through June 30th. The budget the town approves in March covers the period that began two months previous starting in January and ending in December. The town meeting is approving a budget for a year that has already begun. The school district meeting approves a budget in March that takes affect just over three months later on July 1st.
The preparation of the annual town budget usually begins in May. The Board of Selectmen issue guidance to the department heads to develop a proposed budget within certain parameters. The department heads submit their proposed budgets to the Board of Selectmen sometime around the end of July or early August. The Board of Selectmen will schedule meetings starting in September and review the various budget proposals. The Board will then make changes to the budget as it deems appropriate and submit a recommended budget to the Budget Committee. The Budget Committee will then meet with the department heads to review the budgets. The Budget Committee will then hold a public hearing on the budget prior to the deliberative session. The public hearing allows voters to find out more about the proposed budget and provide comment to the Budget Committee. The Budget Committee will then submit its recommended budget to the Board of Selectmen for inclusion in the town meeting warrant. The warrant article for the town budget contains the dollar amount that was recommended by the Budget Committee. This number may or may not be the same as proposed by the Board of Selectmen. This dollar amount can be amended by the voters at the deliberative session. The amount can be reduced however it cannot be increased by more than 10% of the original dollar amount by the voters. There will be other warrant articles that have appropriations contained within them. The warrant articles will appear on the ballot with recommendations by the Board of Selectmen and Budget Committee. Depending upon the type of warrant article the voters can amend the dollar amounts at the deliberative session. The voters will either vote yes to approve the budget at the second session or vote no to not approve the budget. If the budget is not approved the default budget automatically goes into effect. The dollar amount of the default budget can be more or less than the proposed budget. The default budget is calculated based upon the same amount appropriated the previous year less one time appropriations and reduced/increased by other obligations (multi-year contracts, court decisions and other legal requirements).
The meetings at which the Board of Selectmen and the Budget Committee review the proposed budgets are open meetings for the public to attend. This webpage of the town website will have the updated proposed budget data for voters to access when it becomes available. Anyone can subscribe to the agendas of the Board of Selectmen or Budget Committee through this website to have the agendas automatically forwarded to their email address. The subscription button is on the main page on the lower left side.