WILMINGTON, MA — At Monday night’s Board of Selectmen Meeting, Wilmington Town Manager Jeff Hull announced the results of the recent survey taken by residents to identify barriers to participation at Annual Town Meeting.
Hull highlighted several findings:
- Responses were nearly 50/50 as to whether they would attend an Annual Town Meeting on a Saturday.
- Attendance over multiple nights in a week were nearly 57% in favor, 43% opposed.
- Respondents, however, indicated a greater preference to attend a meeting during weeknights over multiple weeks — 69.3% in favor, 30.7% opposed.
- The fourth Saturday in April and first Saturday in March garnered the most votes for both Saturdays and weeknights.
- Respondents are clearly frustrated with the length of time of Annual Town Meeting.
- A significant number of respondents do not like the random selection and would prefer predictability with respect to knowing when articles will be selected for a discussion.
- Some respondents suggested a preference for voting electronically from home which is currently not permissible by state law.
Hull was quick to point out that a Town Meeting on the first Saturday in March would be logistically challenging.
“A March meeting would greatly increase the challenges of estimating revenues and expenditures. Currently, department budgets are submitted in early December anticipating costs 7 to 19 months into the future,” explained Hull. “A March Annual Town Meeting would require that the Town Manager submit the proposed budget in December, meaning department heads would need to estimate their expenditures in late September or early October for a fiscal year that begins 9 months later and concludes 21 months following budget submissions. State aid discussions in the legislature would not have even begun at that point.”
The survey, which had 479 respondents, was in response to former Selectwoman Suzanne Sullivan requesting the Selectmen place an article on the 2019 Annual Town Meeting warrant to change the meeting date from a Saturday to weeknights.
No Selectmen chose to speak on the matter after Hull’s summary of the survey results, but the issue is likely to be brought up again in the near future as Selectmen consider sponsoring any articles for next year’s Town Meeting on Saturday, May 4, 2019.
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