ORLAND, Maine — In an effort to give voters more complete information, town selectmen plan to change the date of the annual town meeting from March to May.
Selectman Wayne Ames said Friday that the change will bring the town meeting process more in line with the budget process in RSU 25, the regional school district that was formed last year with Orland, Bucksport, Prospect and Verona Island.
According to Ames, the change to the RSU last year, and particularly delays in the Legislature, slowed the education budget process.
“Last year, people at town meeting voted on the budget without really knowing what their responsibilities would be in terms of the school,” he said. “That’s a relatively significant part of our budget, and it’s not fair to the residents.”
The town meeting generally has been held in March, but last year the selectmen moved it to the first week in April in hopes of having firmer school budget figures to vote on.
The town does not have a town charter that specifies the town meeting dates, which leaves it up to the selectmen to decide on a date each year.
“We checked with MMA [Maine Municipal Association], and, unless we voted in the previous year to set a date, the selectmen can change it,” Town Clerk Connie Brown said.
The move will not change the town meeting process, but will just move it to later in the year, Ames said.
“We’re not changing the process,” Ames said. “We just hope to have a lot more information about the school budget at that later time. With that big a piece of it unknown, it didn’t seem fair to make a decision at a March town meeting.”
The change will require that the town extend the terms of town officials who are up for re-election this year until the new town meeting. Also, the town report will be printed at its usual time, but without the town meeting warrant, which will be published closer to the new town meeting date.
The new schedule for the town meeting process will be as follows: nomination papers available, Feb. 12; deadline for filing nomination papers, March 26; town budget hearing, April 8; warrant published and available, April 30; town elections, May 10; town meeting, May 11.
That schedule will set the town meeting before the RSU budget has been adopted, Ames said, but by that time they should have a good idea of what the numbers will be.
The RSU joint town meeting to adopt the budget has been set tentatively for May 25, with the state-required budget validation vote set for June 8 to coincide with the state primary elections.
The change in the town meeting date could be a precursor to a change in the town’s fiscal year. The town currently operates on a calendar year, Ames said, but the selectmen are considering proposing a change to match the school fiscal year, which runs from July through June.
Ames said the selectmen were not ready to propose the change this year, but expect to put the proposal to voters at the annual town meeting in 2011.