Tonight Wilton holds its Annual Town Meeting, at the Clune Center Auditorium beginning at 7:30 p.m.. It’s at this meeting that a proposed budget will get passed by those attending to present to eligible voters. Voting on that proposed budget will then commence, immediately following the meeting’s adjournment and will continue on Saturday.
In anticipation of a lively, active meeting, town officials have prepared slides with procedural reminders that they’ll show at the start of the meeting, to outline how the meeting will be conducted under Robert’s Rules of Order. They are hoping to account for any anticipated possible situation that could arise, including lengthy public comment as well as motions made from the floor to cut the budget that is being brought to voters at the Town Meeting by the Boards of Finance, Selectmen and Education.
Officials anticipate the high likelihood that motions will be made from the floor to cut the budget–perhaps several motions of varying amounts. The slides will spell out exactly how such motions can and cannot be made, and how the town will deal with multiple motions for cuts.
An individual could make a motion to reduce the education budget, or make a motion to reduce a specific line-item amount on the town budget, and if enough voters present vote in support of those cuts, the budget voters will consider will be different than what has been proposed thus far. Such motions to change the budget means possible voice votes and hand counts, making it key for people to attend in person tonight.
In addition, with five items being proposed for bonding, plus two referendum questions on the ballot–all in addition to the budget question–it’s likely that not only will people feel strongly about a particular bonding project, but that there will be potential for discussion to continue late into the night.
There are also several ‘controversial’ topics that may be brought up during public discussion, including a lawsuit filed against the Town and the Board of Education (“Girl Doe v. the Wilton BOE, et al.“); the recently declared insolvency of a former liability insurance carrier that covered the town at the time of incidents the town is now being sued for; and the Wilton Schools not being ranked on the recently published U.S. News & World Report’s 2017 List of Top High Schools.
As a result, officials are reiterating tight time limits on how long members of the public will be allowed to speak. They are also making sure to clarify when someone can make a “call to question” motion–a motion that is intended to end lengthy discussion.
The meeting is not being broadcast live on Ch. 79. GOOD Morning Wilton will be live blogging the meeting for those who cannot attend in person.
PROCEDURAL RESOLUTIONS FOR ANNUAL TOWN MEETING
- The meeting shall follow Robert’s Rules of Order.
- The meeting shall impose a three (3) minute time limit on speakers for all items except the bonding resolutions. If a speaker choses to address more than one (1) bonding resolution, the speaker will have up to a total of six (6) minutes.
- The meeting shall modify a motion to “Call the Question” as follows:
At some appropriate point in time, someone is likely to “call the question.” This is a procedural rule under Robert’s where a participant in the assembly feels that there has been enough discussion of an item, and he/she wishes to cut off the debate. That procedurally is called a motion to “call the question.” (The assembly is urged to avoid making such a motion until all have had one fair chance to voice their views.) The meeting shall adopt a rule to give the Moderator discretion to delay the vote on a motion to “call the question.” In such case, the Moderator will ask how many people would still like to speak, allow such remaining people to speak, and then ask for the vote to call the question.
- The meeting shall adopt a Robert’s Rule known as “filling the blanks.” What that means is this: If there is a motion to cut a particular budget by a specific amount, the Moderator will then ask for other suggestions to see if anyone else proposes a different amount. If there are several suggested dollar cuts, each will be considered to “fill in” the “blank.” There will then be debate on all the suggested cuts and a vote will be taken on each proposed cut, starting with the largest, and ending if at any point one of the cuts gets a majority.
ADDITIONAL RULES REGARDING THE PROCESS
According to the Town Charter, the Town Meeting may not (per §C-30):
- Appropriate more money than the Board of Finance has recommended for a particular line item;
- Appropriate money for any purpose not recommended by the Board of Finance and represented by a line item;
- Reduce any line item below the Town’s legal obligations;
- Reduce one line item to create an increase in another line item.
According to the Town Charter, the Town Meeting may:
- Reduce particular line items within the Board of Selectmen’s recommended budget;
- Reduce only the total recommended Board of Education budget—not a particular line item.
- Reduce the debt service appropriation, but not below legal obligations.