Guest Opinion: Annual town meetings
Town hall meetings are being held around the country. They have been in the news regularly since before the presidential election. These meetings have focused on events at which politicians or public officials answer questions from members of the...
Town hall meetings are being held around the country. They have been in the news regularly since before the presidential election. These meetings have focused on events at which politicians or public officials answer questions from members of the public. For Minnesota Townships, we have a different type of town hall meeting.
The second Tuesday of March has been designated in Minnesota, by state statute, to be the day of the annual town meeting. The second Tuesday in March is often referred to as Township Day. Each year the residents of townships gather to conduct business in what is truly grassroots government. When the residents come together at the town hall to conduct the business of the Township annual meeting, it is very different than the politically charged town hall meetings held across the country.
A township is a tract of land 6 miles by 6 miles square, as divided by the land survey in the late 1700s. People living within a township who have organized into a form of local government in which a town board governs have direct input through the annual township meeting. Township government is conducted by an elected board of supervisors (usually three in number), a clerk and a treasurer. However, the business of the annual meeting is conducted by the residents.
The first order of business at the annual meeting, after the clerk calls the meeting to order, is to elect a moderator. After approval of the minutes of the previous year's meeting, reading of the board of audit report and presentation of the road report, motions by the residents to authorize specific actions may be considered. Common examples of actions which require approval of the residents prior to the board acting include: authorization of a new town hall, cemetery or community center, or creation of an emergency service agency such as first responders. The residents will then approve the general levy and dedicated levies.
It is the residents themselves that set the levy, not the elected town board. The town board will make recommendations for the amount to levy, but it is the voters of the township who set the levy. It becomes the responsibility of the board to determine how those monies are spent. The township is the only form of government in which the people, not the elected officials, set the amount of tax to be levied.
There is often a general discussion of items of concern brought up by those in attendance. This time can be used to allow residents to voice their opinions and allows them to come to a consensus on specific matters. Such input however, is only advisory to the town board of supervisors.
The annual town meeting wraps up with motions to set the date, time and place of the next annual meeting and a motion to adjourn.
Township day is also election day for township officials in many townships. Recently, townships have had the option to move elections to November, which many have done. This is another example of what residents, and not the elected board, decide at the annual meeting.
This year, township day if Tuesday, March 14 The strength of township government is the voice it gives to the residents. Attend your annual township meeting and take part in making decisions for your community. For information concerning your township contact your Town Clerk. You can find contact information at " target="_blank">crowwing.us/109/County-Municipalities.