1. Overseas voters vote in town where last resided. Registered
voters in Vermont do not lose residence for voting purposes solely
by living outside of the United States. Until the voter returns to
live in the United States, the voter can remain on the checklist
and vote by absentee ballot in the town in which the voter last
resided. This rule applies regardless of his or her reason for
living outside of the United States, and regardless of how long
the person lives abroad.
2. However, once a person moves back to the United States, the
person must register to vote in the jurisdiction of his or her
current residence. For example, if a member of the armed forces
that has been in Germany for 20 years retires and moves back to
the United States, that person must register to vote in the place
in which he or she now resides. If you send a letter as part of
your purging process and the person returns your form giving
another town or state as his or her residence, you can remove that
person from your checklist.
3. A citizen who wishes to be added to the checklist cannot
refuse to take the voter’s oath. Vermont’s constitution is clear
that every citizen must take the voter’s oath once before being
added to the checklist for the first time in Vermont. (If you move
to another town in Vermont, you do not need to take the oath
again.). A notary public, member of the board of civil authority,
or other person authorized to administer oaths must complete and
sign the form stating that the new voter has sworn or affirmed the
oath and the form must be received by your Town Clerk before the
new voter can receive an absentee ballot or vote in person for the
first time in Vermont.
4. Felons Vote in Vermont. Vermont law does not take away the
right to vote from felons unless the crime involved voter fraud or
"offenses against the purity of elections." 17 V.S.A ch. 35. This
means that individuals who are in jail can continue to vote where
they resided prior to incarceration, and that they do not need any
special permission to register to vote when they are released from
prison and move to a new location. Vermont law differs from most
other states that limit the right of felons to vote so there is
often unnecessary confusion about what Vermont requires.
5. BCA Should Have Political Balance. Upon request of an
underrepresented major party, the selectboard can appoint
additional members to the board of civil authority to bring the
major party membership up to three. 17 V.S.A. §2143. The member(s)
appointed by the Selectboard are NOT Justices of the Peace, they
are members of the board of civil authority for election related
duties only. The additional members appointed by the Selectboard
have no authority to act with respect to functions of the board of
civil authority that are not related to elections. The members
appointed by the Selectboard cannot participate in property tax
appeal hearings, abatement hearings, etc.
6. Towns Should Have Policy For Use of Public Buildings. It is
best practice for each legislative body, selectboard, school
board, or other public body that owns buildings to adopt a policy
outlining its requirements for use of town or school property by
other groups. It is constitutionally permissible for a board to
prohibit any and all use by outside groups. However, it is not
good policy, and may cause discrimination claims, to allow use of
the buildings by certain categories or types of groups and not
other groups, unless there is a real difference in the type of use
being requested. For example, it is reasonable and acceptable to
limit use of certain rooms or spaces to groups of less than 30, or
to meetings ending not later than 9 p.m. However, it may be
discriminatory to allow the boy scouts to meet in a room, but to
turn down a political caucus or a religious organization.
7. Taxpayer who refuses access to property will lose appeal. An
inspection committee will generally inspect the entire property
(rather than just the portions mentioned in the appeal) in order
to report back to the full board of civil authority on property
tax appeals. If the taxpayer refuses access to the property, his
or her appeal is deemed withdrawn. 17 V.S.A. §4404.
8. Members of inspection committee can view property
separately. The law requires three members of the BCA to inspect
property as part of a tax appeal within thirty days of the tax
appeal. 32 V.S.A. § 4404. However, it is not mandatory that all
three members inspect the property at the same time. Whenever
possible the three members should inspect together as a
convenience to the landowner. Note also that if the inspection
committee fails to view part of the property that the appellant
wanted the committee to see, the BCA members can return to the
property a second time within the 30 days period required by law.
9. Organizers of large events need permit from the Public
Safety. The organizers of a commercial public event or gathering
expecting 2,000 or more attendees must apply for a permit from the
Department of Public Safety at least 30 days before the event is
held. 20 V.S.A. § 4501. The Department of Public Safety may grant
the permit, deny the permit, or grant the permit with conditions,
such as providing a bond or other financial security. If a town
wants to regulate smaller assemblies, the town must enact a local
ordinance to do so. 24 V.S.A. § 2291(11).
10. Voters Cannot Petition To Enact Ordinance. With the
exception of ordinances governing conflict of interest in a town,
Vermont law does not permit a municipal ordinance to be adopted or
established by vote of the electorate. Only the Selectboard has
the authority to adopt an ordinance. Once an ordinance has been
adopted, legal voters of the town can bring a petition signed by
5% of the voters within 44 days of the adoption of the ordinance
to require the selectboard to warn a meeting to allow voters to
vote to disapprove an ordinance. However, a petition can not be
used to force a town to vote to adopt an ordinance. 24 V.S.A.§1972
11. Selectboard cannot prevent petitions that bundle financial
requests from service agencies. Vermont law permits social service
agencies to join together in circulating a petition signed by 5%
of the legal voters to ask to have an article or several articles
placed on the warning for town meeting. However, if using a joint
petition, we strongly suggest that each agency present its request
as a separate article so that the votes for each agency’s
appropriation will be considered separately.
12. BCA may increase, decrease or sustain the appraisal on
appeal. 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
amount is higher than the lister’s assessment. 32 V.S.A. §4409.
The same is true for further appeals to the State Board of
Appraisers or the Superior Court.
13. No Bidding Required for Town Projects. Vermont law does not
require the selectboard to go through a public bidding process
when they are making contracts or purchases for the town. However,
the board has a fiduciary obligation to the people of the town
that requires them to use the public’s resources wisely.
14. School districts must bid contracts over $10,000. Law
requires public advertisement of all contracts over $10,000 or an
invitation to bid to three or more vendors or suppliers. 16 V.S.A.
§ 559. (If the board receives fewer than 3 bids the Commissioner
of Education can grant an exception to this rule.) For school
construction contracts of over $500,000, the board must follow
rules established by the State Board of Education, and receive
suggestions and recommendations on bidders from the State
Department of Buildings and General Services. 16 V.S.A. § 559.
15. Towns can borrow for five years or less without bond. Towns
can choose to finance improvements or assets by borrowing for five
years or less without a bond. To do so the voters must approve the
proposed loan at an annual or special meeting of the town. 24 V.S.A. § 1786a.
16. When necessary the selectboard may borrow for highway
purposes without vote. The selectboard may borrow from the
municipal equipment loan fund to purchase tools, equipment and
materials necessary for the construction, maintenance or repair of
highways and bridges without a prior vote. 24 V.S.A. § 1786a (b).
17. Listers must keep minutes of their meetings. Like all
municipal boards, the listers meetings are subject to the
requirements of the open meeting law. Amongst its other
requirements, the open meeting law requires that minutes be taken
at all meetings of public bodies. At a minimum, the minutes must
include the following information: All members of the public body
present; All other active participants in the meeting; All
motions, proposals and resolutions made, offered and considered,
and what disposition is made of same; and The results of any
votes, with a record of the individual vote of each member if a
roll call is taken. 1 V.S.A. § 312(b)(1).
18. Administrative work does not require public meeting. The
requirements of the open meeting law do not apply to site
inspections for the purpose of making tax assessments or
abatements, clerical work, or work assignments of staff or other
personnel. In addition, the law permits routine day-to-day
administrative matters that do not require action by the public
body, to be conducted outside a duly warned meeting, provided that
no money is appropriated, expended, or encumbered. 1 V.S.A. §
19. Subcommittees must follow the open meeting law. All public
bodies must follow the requirements of the open meeting law. 1 V.S.A. § 312. A "Public body" means any board, council or
commission of the state or one or more of its political
subdivisions, any board, council or commission of any agency,
authority or instrumentality of the state or one or more of its
political subdivisions, or any committee of any of the foregoing
boards, councils or commissions. . . ." 1 V.S.A. § 310(3).
20. Selectboard may reduce the size of the planning commission
/ zoning board/ DRB by resolution. The law does not explicitly
address the issue of reducing the size of the planning commission, DRB or zoning board. However, the right to alter the size of these
boards is implicit in the right of the selectboard to create them
and set their sizes. 24 V.S.A. § 4321, 4322, 4461. We strongly
recommend boards reduce the size of their boards when they find
that positions on the boards are hard to keep filled with active
members. The smaller commission will help ensure the necessary
quorum at meetings.
21. Most planning commissioners serve at the will of the
selectboard. With the exception of elected planning commissioners,
the selectboard can appoint and remove planning commissioners at
will. Any member may be removed at any time by unanimous vote of
the legislative body. 24 V.S.A. § 4323(a).
22. Town will be liable for sexual harassment by board member.
The selectboard cannot take a hands-off approach to allegations
that a zoning board member or member of the public is making
sexually explicit or harassing comments to a town employee. There
is an affirmative obligation of the town to protect its employees
from sexual harassment. Failure to take reasonable steps to
prevent further incidents of harassment, once notified of the
problem, can lead to liability for the town. 25 V.S.A. § 495h.
23. Towns must adopt a sexual harassment policy. Vermont law
requires that all employers adopt a policy against sexual
harassment which must include a statement that sexual harassment
in the workplace is unlawful, and that it is unlawful to retaliate
against an employee for filing a complaint of sexual harassment or
cooperating with an investigation. The policy must include a
description and examples of sexual harassment and must state the
range of consequences for employees who commit sexual harassment.
In addition, if a town has more than five employees the policy
must include a complaint process. This policy must be given to
each employee as well as posted in the town. You can obtain a
model policy and poster from the Department of Labor and Industry.
25 V.S.A. § 495h.