1. Delinquent tax collector may be paid salary in lieu of fees.
In most cases the delinquent tax collector is paid a penalty of up
to eight percent as compensation for collecting delinquent taxes
for a town. However, a municipality may vote to pay a salary in
lieu of fees. In such a case all penalties must be turned over to
the treasurer at least once a month. 24 V.S.A. § 1530.
2. Voters may elect to reduce penalty paid to
delinquent tax collector. If a municipality wishes to reduce
the penalty paid to the delinquent tax collector it may adopt a
smaller percent by vote at an annual or special meeting. 32 V.S.A.
§ 1674. The law would also permit the voters to establish a grace
period or graduated commission schedule for taxes paid within a
defined time frame after the established time of payment.
3. Voters may not elect to have selectboard
appoint collector. Unless a town has a municipal charter or
has adopted a municipal manager form of government the delinquent
tax collector and collector of current taxes must be elected.
(Although the town may elect to have the treasurer serve as
collector of current taxes.) No law would permit the voters to
elect to permit the selectboard to appoint a collector. Indeed,
the law provides that if the town fails to elect a tax collector
then the first constable will fulfill the duties of that office.
4. Town may vote to have treasurer collect
taxes for the town. The voters of a town may elect to have the
town treasurer collect the current taxes for the town and town
school district. 24 V.S.A. § 1521. Once the town so votes (and
until it votes otherwise) the town should not include on its town
meeting ballot an election for a collector of current taxes.
5. Quorum of board required for board action.
Vermont’s general quorum rule can be found in 1 V.S.A. §172.
This law provides that "when joint authority is given to three or
more, the concurrence of a majority of such number shall be
sufficient and shall be required in its exercise." This means that
unless a more specific statute provides a different rule, a seven
member board will need an agreement of four members in order to
pass a motion. This is true even if there are vacancies on the
board or recusals. 1 V.S.A. § 172. Note that the quorum rule will
not apply to advisory boards (unless the board creating the
advisory committee requires it) since advisory boards do not have
authority to act. By definition they merely provide
recommendations to the board that has the authority to act.
6. Quorum for school board differs from the
rules that apply to town boards. School boards operate under a
special statute, 16 V.S.A. §554, that changes the general rule for
board voting. A school board needs a quorum (majority of the
board) to be present, but then only requires the majority of those
present to vote in favor of a motion for the motion to pass. For
example, on a union high school board composed of 15 total
members, if only nine members are present at a meeting, only five
members need to vote in favor of a motion for it to pass.
7. Board of abatement may act by majority vote
of a quorum of the board. Most municipal boards require the
concurrence of a majority of the board to act. However, 24 V.S.A.
§ 1533 provides that only a majority of the quorum of a board of
abatement is needed for it to decide a matter. Figuring out how to
calculate what constitutes a quorum of the board of abatement can
be confusing. Like other municipal boards, a quorum of the board
is a majority of all of the members of the board. Members of the
board of abatement include the BCA (clerk, selectboard, and
justices), the listers and the treasurer. The number of justices
depend on the size of your town - so presuming you have 10
justices, plus three selectboard members and three listers the
total number of the board would be 18 and a quorum of the board
would be 10. The town would therefore need ten people in order to
convene the meeting of the board, but it would need only six to
agree on a particular course of action. In the alternative, the
board of abatement is deemed, by law, to have a quorum if a
majority of the listers and a majority of the selectboard members
and treasurer are present.
8. A taxpayer is not required to attend the
board of abatement meeting. If a taxpayer requests abatement
of taxes in writing the board of abatement must meet at some time
to consider the request. 24 V.S.A. § 1535. While a taxpayer has
the right to attend the meeting or to have a representative act on
his or her behalf at the meeting, if a taxpayer has made a written
request for abatement which states the reason and supporting
information for the abatement request, the statute does not
require personal attendance by the taxpayer. The taxpayer should
be told that the board may want additional information, or the
taxpayer may want to respond to other information presented at the
meeting, but if the taxpayer chooses not to attend, the board must
still consider the request and take action to grant or deny the
9. Board cannot eject member from executive
session. In one town a dissenting member of the board
routinely informed public and press about what was discussed
during their executive session. The board cannot prevent this from
occurring. Although the board can publicly express its
displeasure, the law does not permit the board to exclude or eject
one of its members from a meeting. 1 V.S.A. § 313(b)
10. Board may eject unruly member of public.
On occasion a member of the public will disrupt a meeting. In
such a case the chair of the board should first try to calm the
individual down and restore order. If this is not possible the
chair can call on the town constable to remove the individual from
the meeting. 1 V.S.A. § 312(h).
11. School board follows Robert's Rules;
selectboard can create own procedures. Vermont law requires
school board meetings to be conducted using Robert’s Rules of
Order. 16 V.S.A. § 554. For small school boards we recommend that
the board use Robert’s Rules for Small Boards. In contrast, the
law is silent about what procedures the selectboard and other
local boards should follow. Accordingly, these boards can adopt
their own rules of order. This can be, but does not have to be,
Robert’s Rules. We recommend that boards commit to writing the
procedures they follow so that all board members and members of
the public will know what to expect.
12. Appointment discussions can be made in
executive session. The law permits a board to discuss "the
appointment or employment or evaluation of a public officer or
employee" in executive session. 1 V.S.A. section 313 (3). Because
elected and appointed officials are public officers, the
selectboard can go into executive session to consider various
applicants for appointment to fill vacancies, or for appointment
to town boards. Although the discussion and a straw vote may be
taken in the executive session, the actual votes must be taken in
the open meeting so that the public can see how board members have
voted, and those votes must be reflected in the minutes of the
13. School board appoints to fill vacancies in
school district. When there is a vacancy in the school board
the remaining school board members must act within 30 days to fill
the vacancy until the next election. A record of the appointment
must be given to the town clerk for filing. 16 VSA § 424. Note
that this law changed in 2005. Prior to the change, school board
vacancies were filled by the selectboard. In the event that there
are vacancies in a majority of the members of the board the
vacancies must be filled by a special school district meeting; and
meanwhile, the remaining board member may draw orders for payment
of necessary expenses.
14. Minutes do not need to be taken of
executive sessions. The law does not require boards to
take minutes of an executive session. However, the vote to enter
executive session, including the stated reason for moving into an
executive session should be recorded in the minutes, as well as
the vote on any action taken after the close of the executive
session. 1 V.S.A. § 313.
15. The entrance checklist is public record.
The entrance checklist is public record and must be made
available for public inspection upon request. In addition, the law
requires the checklist to be kept for five years following the
election and made available at cost to the public. 17 V.S.A.
§2590. Although the ballots and tally sheets may be destroyed 90
days after a state or local election, and 22 months after an
election including federal offices, the exit checklist, or if
none, the entrance checklist must be retained for five years.
16. Voters or auditors set selectboard’s pay,
but selectboard may decide payment schedule. At its annual
meeting a town may vote to pay any or all of its town officers for
their official services, and they can set the amount. If the
voters fail to fix the compensation of a particular officer or of
town employees then the selectboard may set the salary. However,
the selectboard may not set its own salary. The law provides that
in the event that the voters fail to set a salary for the
selectboard the auditors may do so. However, if the town has voted
to eliminate the office of auditor and the voters fail to fix the
selectboard salary then the law permits the board to be
compensated at the same rate at which they were compensated during
the immediately preceding year. 24 V.S.A. § 933. Note that the
selectboard may determine when and how it is to be paid, and they
may sign the orders to pay each other’s salaries.
17. Constable’s law enforcement authority is
limited to town in which he/she was elected. Constables in
Vermont, whether elected or appointed, do not have any law
enforcement authority outside of the boundaries of the town in
which he or she was elected. State v. Hart, 148 VT 104
(1987). While municipal police officers were given authority by
the legislature in 1988 to exercise statewide jurisdiction,
constables were not included. A constable should be very careful
not to misrepresent his/her authority outside of his town. For
example, if a constable represented himself/herself to be a
"police officer" with full authority when in a car accident out of
state, it is possible that the constable may be charged as
impersonating a police officer under a statute in the other state.
18. Municipality may allow constable in
neighboring community to work in town. 24 V.S.A. § 1936a (d)
permits a municipal legislative body to vote to allow a constable
elected or appointed in another municipality to exercise law
enforcement authority in its municipality, so long as that
constable is not prohibited from exercising law enforcement
authority in his or her own community and so long as the constable
has completed the training requirements for a full-time or
part-time law enforcement officer, and the legislative body adopts
policies and procedures establishing the circumstances under which
the authority may be exercised.
19. Towns must adopt their own actual cost
schedule or use the state schedule. The fee schedule adopted
by the Office of the Secretary of State for the copying of public
records must be used by each town or city unless the municipality
has made its own determination of actual costs using the
procedures set out in 1 V.S.A.§326(d) and (e). The current charge
is five cents for single sided and nine cents for double sided.
You cannot charge more for a copy of the entrance checklist or
copies of other public records unless there is a statutory fee
established for a category of record or unless the municipality
has officially determined its actual costs.
20. Unless your town or city charter provides
authorization, there is NO RECALL of selectboard members or other
local elected officials in Vermont. However, if you have a
three member selectboard in your town and you and other citizens
are concerned that the board is not being responsive to important
issues that are being raised by the legal voters, then voters can
submit a petition signed by at least five percent of the voters on
the town checklist asking the selectboard to warn a special
meeting to vote on an article to increase the size of the
selectboard to five members. 17 V.S.A. §2650. In the petition, the
article needs to specify whether you want the two additional
members to serve one-year terms or two-year terms.
21. The presiding officer may limit activities
in the polling place. The presiding officer establishes rules
to maintain order in the polling place and can determine that no
other activities may take place within the polling place during an
election. 17 V.S.A.§2508. Many voters find it upsetting or
distracting to have extraneous conversations and activities taking
place while they are trying to concentrate on marking the ballot.
We encourage presiding officers to move bake sales, raffles,
informational booths or other activities outside of the polling
22. As tax appeal time nears, remember that on
appeals from the listers' decision to the board of civil authority
(BCA), the BCA may increase, decrease or sustain the appraisal.
(32 V.S.A. §4409.) Once the taxpayer raises the issue of the
property’s valuation, the BCA must make findings to support what
the BCA believes to be the correct valuation of the property, even
if that is an increase. The same is true for further appeals to
the state board of appraisers or the superior court.
23. A lister can be a justice of the peace, but
lister/justice of the peace cannot participate in tax appeal
hearings. Many small towns have difficulty finding persons to
serve in various offices. It is legally permissible (i.e., there
is no statutory conflict or prohibition) for a person to be
elected as a lister and as a justice of the peace. The lister may
take an active role in election duties, except when the person is
in a contested race for his lister office. However, the lister
cannot sit on the BCA for the purposes of tax appeals because the
appeal is from the listers’ determination of value.
24. The time for dog licensing and tags is here.
Just a brief reminder that the dog must wear the "license" tag
required by the Vermont statutes, and that is sufficient proof
that the dog has been vaccinated for rabies. An additional
"rabies" tag is not required. (20 V.S.A. §3581(a))
25. Candidate who comes in second does not fill
vacancy if winner declines office. If the candidate elected to
an office does not want to accept the office to which he or she
was elected, whether from the floor or by Australian ballot, the
office must be filled by appointment by the selectboard made by
motion in a duly warned meeting, or if for school director, by the
school board in a duly warned meeting. The town clerk or
selectboard DO NOT just ask the second place candidate if he or
she wants to accept the office.
26. Board members must take care when they
communicate electronically. The issue of whether board members
may conduct municipal business electronically is a tricky one.
This is because many common practices in the private sector will
violate our open government laws when used in the public sector.
The first principal of open government to keep
in mind is that no public body may conduct the business of the
public body outside of a public meeting; all discussions and
decisions must be made in a public meeting. 1 V.S.A. § 312. The only exceptions to this
rule are for merely routine administrative matters and for the
deliberations of a quasi judicial body. As a practical matter this
means a board may use e-mail to set the agenda for an upcoming
meeting or to schedule a time for a special meeting, or to pass
along documents, reports or letters that will be discussed at the
meeting (and that will be available for the public to view at the
meeting - unless the document is exempt under the public records
law.) In addition, because the deliberations of quasi judicial
bodies are entirely exempt from the open meeting law quasi
judicial boards may conduct their deliberations and draft their
decisions entirely by e-mail. Note that a written decision in a
quasi-judicial matter must explain what the decision is and the
board’s reasoning behind the decision. The decision is public
An exemption for quasi-judicial decisions of
boards would not permit the board to make a decision about its
rules of procedure through e-mail. This is an administrative
action of the board and the discussion and decision in the matter
must be held in a public meeting of the board. On the other hand,
so long as a quorum of the board is not e-mailing each other all
together, and the board does not use e-mail to make decisions,
board members may send individual e-mails to each other, other
town officials and members of the public about the business of the
board. These e-mails are public record (unless an exemption
applies to the particular subject matter) and steps should be
taken to ensure that they are preserved in accordance with the
town’s record schedules. 1 V.S.A. § 317(b). Note that the public
record law applies to all e-mails by local officials that are sent
or received during the course of agency business that relate to
the business of the town — even those sent and received on home