1. Town and School may lend money to each other. The
selectboard and school board may loan money to each other secured
by a note signed by the selectboard or school board. 16 V.S.A.
§429. The note shall stipulate the terms and the notes shall be
payable upon demand or mature within three months from the date of
issue. Obviously, the boards need to have the funds available and
be willing to cooperate, but we felt it was worth a reminder that
this option may be helpful in some towns.
2. Reconsideration votes by Australian Ballot may be held
quickly and must be in same location as prior vote. When a
town or school district or other municipal corporation uses the
Australian ballot system of voting for the budget, if the budget
is defeated, the legislative body may warn another election on a
revised budget with at least seven days warning. 17 V.S.A.
§2680(c) and (g). The vote must be held in the same location as
the first vote. 17 V.S.A.§2680(c). Note that the normal 30 to 40
day warning period for a special meeting or election does not
apply to Australian ballot budget votes when the budget failed at
the first annual meeting.
3. Reconsideration of floor votes needs full warning time.
If the budget is voted for the town or school district from the
floor at a traditional town meeting, if the budget article is
defeated, the legislative body must warn another special meeting
for not less than 30 nor more than 40 days. Remember that at a
traditional town meeting the budget article can be amended from
the floor, so that it is possible to revise or lower the budget
during the meeting. Moderators can educate the voters regarding
the best process to use to vote amendments so that the article is
not defeated before a satisfactory budget number is determined by
4. The Selectboard or School Board can warn a special
meeting to reconsider the same Article as many times as it wishes
during a year, except for bond votes. Petitions by 5% of town
voters requesting reconsideration can only be done once on the
same article or issue during a twelve-month period. However, the
law permits the legislative body to bring an issue back to the
voters as many times as the board wishes. 17 V.S.A. §2661
5. Meeting minutes do not have to be posted. Although
some towns or boards post minutes on the bulletin board or on a
website, this is done as a courtesy only—the law does not require
posting of minutes. 17 V.S.A. §312 only requires that minutes be
made available for inspection and copying within five days of the
meeting. These minutes can be marked or stamped DRAFT until they
are approved by the board, but they must be made available upon
request for inspection or copying within five days of the meeting.
6. Reserve funds may usually be spent without additional
vote. If a town has established a reserve fund for a special
purpose, such as a reserve fund for highway equipment, the statute
provides that the reserve fund is to be under the control and
direction of the legislative body (Selectboard or School Board).
17 V.S.A. §2804 Once a reserve fund is established and funded by
town vote, the Board may expend the funds for such purposes for
which the fund was established without another town vote.
If the legislative body wants to spend those reserve funds for any
other purpose, then the spending must be authorized by a majority
of voters at an annual or special meeting.
7. During clerk’s vacation, office hours may be altered.
Even town clerks can go on vacation – provided they make an
arrangement to have someone else – an assistant – open up the
office and the vault in order to make the public records
available. No law requires the assistant clerk to maintain the
same hours as the clerk (in one instance, the assistant, who
ordinarily works very part time for the town, will open the office
on request). So long as the clerk posts an advance notice to let
the public know what the temporary times or arrangement will be,
and the records are available during his or her absence, the legal
requirement that "the files and records in the office of the clerk
shall be available for inspection upon proper request at all
reasonable hours" will be met.
8. Study committees formed by the board are subject to the open
meeting law. The open meeting law provides that committees
formed by a public board are also considered to be public bodies.
Accordingly, if the selectboard appoints a citizen committee to
study and report back its findings on an issue such as developing
the local riverfront into a park, or changing the municipal
charter, the meetings of that committee must be publicly noticed –
just like the meetings of the board that created it. The committee
must also take and make available within five days minutes of each
9. When cemetery associations dissolve, responsibility falls to
the town. A cemetery association, which is not owned and
operated by a church, or by a religious or ecclesiastical society,
may be dissolved under the provisions of chapter 19 of Title 11.
Upon dissolution, all lands owned or held by it for cemetery
purposes and all perpetual care funds, trust funds, and all other
property held or owned by it, less dissolution expenses, may be
transferred to the town in which the lands are located, and
thereafter these lands may become public burial grounds, and the
town shall hold the perpetual care funds and trust funds in trust
for the care, improvement and embellishment of the lots therein,
according to the terms upon which they were held by the
association. 18 V.S.A. § 5439.
10. Appointments to fill vacancies can be discussed in
executive session. The open meeting law permits a board to go
into executive session to discuss "the appointment or employment
or evaluation of a public officer or employee." 1 V.S.A. § 313(3).
This would include discussing possible appointments to fill
vacancies in town office.
11. Vermont law makes digital records public record of the
town. 1 V.S.A. § 317(b) provides "as used in this subchapter,
‘public record’ or ‘public document’ means all papers, documents,
machine readable materials or any other written or recorded
matters, regardless of their physical form or characteristics,
that are produced or acquired in the course of agency business."
This means that if a clerk keeps the town’s grand list or voter
checklist on the computer - the computer database is a public
record of the town as well as the paper record.
12. Courts are not limited to actual cost. Whenever
probate, district, environmental, family or superior court
officers and employees or officers and employees of the judicial
bureau furnish copies or certified copies of records, it may
charge 25 cents a page with a minimum fee of $1.00, and $5.00 for
a certified copy or for authenticated documents. Note, however,
that one certified copy of any document issued by a court must be
given, without charge, to a party of record to the action and no
fees should be assessed when copies or certified copies of records
are given to any state agency.
13. Selectboard can warn meeting to vote on special
appropriations. The Selectboard has the authority to warn a
special meeting at any time - for any purpose they wish. This
means that if appropriations for social service agencies were
voted down at town meeting, the board could put the issue to the
voters again at a special meeting.
14. Voted special appropriation can be paid as cash flow
permits. When the voters at town meeting vote to pay an
appropriation to a social service agency or other non-municipal
entity that agency is absolutely entitled to payment as voted by
the electorate. If no date of payment is provided, so long as
payment is made within the budget year the Selectboard can
exercise its discretion as to the timing. It is therefore not
unreasonable for the board to wait until after the tax due date to
pay out these appropriations.
15. New board members on expanded board may be elected at
special meeting. One school district voted to expand its board
from three to five members. The district was meeting again to
revote the budget. So long as the new vote was warned as a special
meeting (and not with the shortened seven days notice permitted
when the budget is voted by Australian ballot, or for union or
incorporated school district budget re-votes) the meeting can also
include the election of additional members to the board. 16 V.S.A.
§ 423(b). In such a case the term of those elected for one year
shall expire on the next annual meeting day and those elected for
two years shall expire on the second annual meeting day following
their election. Note that in one case the district specified that
the new members were to be elected at the next annual meeting. In
this case the provisions of 423(b) will not apply and the district
will have to wait until the next meeting to elect the additional
16. School budget revote is warned by the district.
Although the district meeting may have been held jointly with the
town, the town Selectboard has no role in warning or holding a
revote on a school budget. Rather, it is the school board that
warns the new meeting. 16 V.S.A. § 422.
17. Board may only appoint a town manager if the town has voted
to adopt the Manager form of government. Once the town adopts
a Town Manager form of government the board can appoint whoever
they wish (so long as he or she does not hold other elective
office) to serve as Town Manager or Interim Manager. The board may
not appoint a Manager until the town adopts this form of
governance by vote at a regular or special meeting — unless your
charter provides otherwise. You should have your town attorney
check your charter to give you a sense of whether the charter
provisions contradict the general law.
18. Summer employment of minors will be subject to Child Labor
laws. An employee must be at least 16 years old to work in
most non-farm jobs. No person who is under 18 years old may work
in any occupation declared hazardous by the Secretary of the USDOL
or the Commissioner of Labor & Industry. These include, in part,
driving a motor vehicle and being an outside helper on a motor
vehicle, using power-driven hoisting apparatus, power-driven
circular saws, band saws, and guillotine shears, roofing
operations, or excavation operations. (For a complete list visit
Children Age 14 and 15 MAY NOT work in any of the hazardous
occupations above and may not work in construction or repair jobs,
driving a motor vehicle or helping a driver, power-driven
machinery or hoisting apparatus other than typical office
machines, processing occupations, public messenger jobs, or
transporting of persons or property. (For a complete list visit
Children Age 14 and 15 MAY work no more than three hours on a
school day or 18 hours in a school week; eight hours on a
non-school day or 40 hours in a non-school week. Also, work may
not begin before 7 a.m. or end after 7 p.m., except from June 1
through Labor Day, when evening hours are extended to 9 p.m. Note
that different rules apply in agricultural employment.
19. Selectboard can request fence viewer to examine fences and
divide costs between landowners. Upon request of the
selectboard, the fence viewers shall examine fences within the
town and must determine who is responsible for maintaining the
fence dividing two parcels. 24 V.S.A. § 3810. When the land is
being pastured without a division fence by both adjoining property
owners then the fence viewer can be asked to decide how many
animals each property owner can put on the land. 24 V.S.A. § 3804.
The fence viewer can also determine where a fence should be placed
if the fence cannot be placed along the property line because of
water or other impediments, and the owners can not agree on where
it should be built. The fence viewer may not decide a boundary
line or decide on ownership of land. 24 V.S.A. § 3802. See
Camp v. Camp, 59 Vt. 667 (1887); Shaw v. Gilfillan,
22 Vt. 565 (1850).
20. Fence viewer cannot require landowner or occupant to pay
for fence if he/she keeps no livestock. In 1989 the Vermont
Supreme Court found 24 V.S.A. § 3802 unconstitutional. Section
3802 requires abutting landowners to pay a portion of the costs to
maintain a fence that separates his or her property from the
neighboring parcel. Choquette v. Perrault, 153 Vt. 45
(1989). The court reasoned that the change in land use
patterns in Vermont means that the fence law more and more often
applies to landowners without livestock. The court concluded that
in such situations the fence law is burdensome, arbitrary and
confiscatory, and is thus, unconstitutional. For this reason, the
fence viewer can only require the landowner or occupant who owns
livestock to pay the cost of maintaining the fence.
21. Appeals from decisions of fence viewers must be made within
two hours of the decision. It is a little know fact
that the shortest period for bringing appeal is from decisions of
the fence viewer. Vermont law permits fence viewer decisions to be
appealed to the district or superior court – but only if the
appeal is taken within two hours of the rendition of the decision.
24 V.S.A. § 3810.
22. Planning commission may pick newspaper in which to
advertise public hearings. Vermont statues require that public
hearings be advertised in papers of general circulation in the
community. 24 VSA § 4444. Where more than one paper serves a
particular community, it is the board who is advertising that must
determine which newspaper should be used. Although the selectboard
determines the newspaper that is to be used for publishing town
meeting warnings, there is no law that gives the selectboard
authority to designate the newspaper used by other boards 17 V.S.A.
§ 2641(b) That being said, we believe it is best practice for all
town boards to publish their notices in the same paper so the
public know where to look for information about the town. However,
so long as the planning commission uses a paper that serves the
area, they will comply with the law.
23. Board doesn’t have to put person on agenda. The open
meeting law gives the public the right to be present and comment
on the business of the local board. The board sets its own agenda
and no citizen has the right to require the board to "put them on
the agenda." That being said, most boards provide a general
invitation to hear from the public at some point during the
meeting at which time this citizen should have an opportunity to