Annual Town Meeting, 2021 ~ A Glossary of Important Words and Terms

Learn the lingo: Words and terms you might not hear in your daily life will have meaning at Town Meeting. See you on the Sabourin Field turf at 9 am, Saturday, May 15!

Editor’s Note: Looking for all the articles The Citizen has posted about Annual Town Meeting, 2021? Click this link to see the full list, updated as each new article posts.

Abstain: not voting one way or the other.

Adjourn: end the meeting.

Adopt: to okay or accept.

Agenda: an outline of items to address at a meeting.

Amendment: adding on to a motion, usually to improve it, enlarge its intent, or to make it more understandable.

Appeal the decision of the Chair: to question the Chairperson’s decision and ask the group to change it.

Appoint: to place someone in a job or position.

Bond: Municipal bonds (or “munis” for short) are debt securities issued by states, cities, counties and other governmental entities to fund day-to-day obligations and to finance capital projects such as building schools, highways, or sewer systems.

Bond Authorization: Vote to approve borrowing funds for specific purpose(s)

Bylaws: the rules a group has agreed to follow and the goals of the organization.

Caucus:  In Bedford, an annual event in January where voters nominate candidates to be placed on the local ballot.

Chair: the position held by the meeting’s leader.

Cherry Sheet: Cherry-colored form showing state and county charges and reimbursement to the Town as certified by the State Director of Accounts.

Committee: a group that reviews and reports on a special task given to them by the larger membership; a committee may recommend actions to be taken based upon its findings.

Community Preservation Act – CPA: The Community Preservation Act (CPA) is a smart growth tool that helps communities preserve open space and historic sites, create affordable housing, and develop outdoor recreational facilities. CPA also helps strengthen the state and local economies by expanding housing opportunities and construction jobs for the Commonwealth’s workforce, and by supporting the tourism industry through preservation of the Commonwealth’s historic and natural resources. 

Click here to download a one-page overview flyer about the Community Preservation Act.

Enterprise Funds: Funds that account for all revenues and expenditures for services and allow surpluses to be used to reduce user fees for the services or to pay for capital improvements.

Finance Committee Reserve Fund: Funds set aside for unanticipated needs. Expenditures must be approved by Finance Committee.

Fiscal Year: July 1 through June 30.

Free Cash: is a revenue source that results from the calculation, as of July 1, of a community’s remaining, unrestricted funds from operations of the previous fiscal year, based on the balance sheet as of June 30. It typically includes actual receipts in excess of revenue estimates and unspent amounts in departmental budget line items for the year just ending, plus unexpended free cash from the previous year.

General consent: approval by the group. If even one member objects, a vote must be taken.

Local Receipts: Local receipts are revenue generated at the local level from a variety of sources other than property taxes. Some of the most common local receipts are excise taxes; regulatory fees (fines, licenses, and permits); user fees (charges for water, sewer, and garbage services); departmental revenues, and investment income. Local receipts are paid into the community’s general fund unless earmarked for specific departmental use in compliance with state statute.

Majority opinion: the decision of more than half the voting members.

Minority opinion: the position held by less than half of the voting members.

Minutes: the official record of a meeting.

Motion: a member’s proposal for action.

Nominate: to recommend a person for election to office.

Non-Appropriated Expenses: Expenses that are contained on the cherry sheet from the state and charged to the Town, the largest of which is the annual MBTA assessment.

OPEB:  “Other Post-Employment Benefits”: A trust fund that helps pay for pension, health care, and other benefits to retired town employees.

Overlay District: An overlay zone is a zoning district that is applied over one or more previously established zoning districts, establishing additional or stricter standards and criteria for covered properties in addition to those of the underlying zoning district. Communities often use overlay zones to protect special features such as historic buildings, wetlands, steep slopes, and waterfronts. Overlay zones can also be used to promote specific development projects, such as mixed-use developments, waterfront developments, housing along transit corridors, or affordable housing.

Pending: still up in the air and undecided.

Point of information: asking for more information before making a decision.

Point of order: correcting a mistake that is against the rules of the organization.

Pro tem: temporary

Proxy: permission given, usually in writing, by one member for another member to vote in his or her name.

Question: a motion that is under discussion with a vote to be taken on it.

Recess: taking a short break

Revolving Fund: a fund set up for specified purposes with the proviso that repayments to the fund may be used again for these purposes.

Rescind: to take back or withdraw

Reserve Fund: A fund established by the Annual Town Meeting.  It is under control of the Finance Committee, which may authorize transfers for extraordinary or unforeseen expenditures.  The fund may be composed of an appropriation of not more than 5% of the tax levy for the preceding year.

Resolution: usually a policy statement being suggested to the group for approval.

Second: support for a motion; before a group can handle a proposal, it must know that two people want to have it discussed.

Stabilization Fund: A special account created to provide a reserve for municipal expenditures.

Standing Committee: a committee that goes year-round such as a program planning committee.

Suspension of the rules: discussing something without sticking to the rules of the meeting. Must be approved by the majority vote of the committee and or board.

Surplus Revenue: The total amount of cash, accounts receivable, and other current assets that exceed liabilities and reserves.

Tax levy: The tax levy is the amount of revenue a community can raise through real estate and personal property taxes.

Veto: to turn thumbs down on a motion or idea.

Warrant Article: A warrant article is an item on a town warrant, which represents an “agenda item” for a town meeting.  The warrant notifies the voters of the nature of the business that is being proposed for town meeting to act.  It is the agenda item that the town meeting votes to adopt or reject as its action

Zoning Bylaw: as amended through  Special Town Meeting November 2019. 

 


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