NAHANT — Generations of Nahanters have spent an April Saturday casting their ballots, shopping used books at the library, and grabbing a bite to eat at a nearby bake sale before voicing their opinions in the town’s purest form of democracy.
But the current Town Meeting and town election process, according to the state Department of Revenue’s Department of Local Services, is flawed.
In 2015, the department recommended selectmen propose moving the date of the annual meeting to May or June from the last Saturday of April. But the panel never took any action.
“An early Town Meeting date puts undue pressure on the town administrator, selectmen, and the advisory and finance committee to complete work on the operating and capital budgets,” according to the report. “It also can sometimes deny the town relevant information concerning state aid.”
In an article submitted by Town Administrator Tony Barletta and supported by the Finance Committee, voters will be asked to push back the meeting to the third Saturday in May.
“I think folks like tradition and change can be difficult for people, but moving it three weeks later seems like the right thing to do,” said Barletta. “Moving it to that third weekend in May would provide for a better process.”
Since 2015, the budget process has become more complex and the timeline has become more difficult to work with, according to the recommendation. Holding the election on the same day as Town Meeting also creates self-inflicted pressure. This year, the warrant and budget are being discussed on a contingency basis while voters await the outcome of the override ballot vote. The question asks for an additional $600,000 in real estate and personal property taxes to fund the general operation of the town, including the stabilization, other post-employment benefits, storm damage repairs, and public schools.
“It’s a lot of work for the clerk and the poll workers for it to be on the same day,” said Barletta. “Not only is it administratively difficult, but if (voters) are working the polls, they can’t be at Town Meeting.”
Nahant has an open Town Meeting, meaning any registered voter who lives in town can take a vote. The meeting will begin at 12:30 p.m. at Nahant Town Hall.