The committee voted 4-0 to endorse an article for the March 2013 annual town meeting that will change the date of this governmental meeting from the second Saturday in March to the fourth Saturday of April.
Committee chairman John Heinstadt proposed the time frame, saying it will allow the meeting to happen after the April school vacation. However, he said there are some years it may interfere with the Easter weekend.
The school committee and the school department feel that moving town meeting forward more than a month will help in their budgeting, giving them more time to get more accurate financial numbers. The school district’s budget has many variables from year to year such as state aid, student enrollment, and staffing, all of which must be estimated by the time a budget is required to meet the town’s internal deadlines in December.
“We want to do this because we are developing a new budget at the same time when we are closing out the previous budget,” said school committee member Gary Magnuson. “The funding is so uncertain. The school budget is 58 percent of the town’s budget.”
Committee member Anne Ward asked why the proposal to move town meeting didn’t include switching it from a weekend to a week night, as in other towns.
Heinstadt responded: “Some people might feel that that is overreaching.”
Heinstadt said he spoke to Town Manager Richard MacDonald and Selectmen Chairman Ted Flynn, whom he said both looked favorably on the idea.
Changing the date of town meeting also means changing the date of the town election. According to the town bylaws, the town meeting is set for the second Saturday in March and the election takes place two weeks later, on the fourth Saturday in March.
An annual town meeting on the fourth Saturday in April means a town election would be held the second Saturday in May.
Duxbury has an early town meeting compared to neighboring communities. Other towns such as Hingham, Marshfield, Kingston, and Pembroke hold their town meetings in late April.
In 2006, town meeting voters rejected a plan to move the annual town meeting from March to May. It was proposed by a town government study committee in order to allow town officials more time to gather financial data to make their budgets more realistic. The selectmen and the town manager supported the date change, but two town moderators, the town clerk and the finance committee opposed the idea, saying that good weather in the spring affected town meeting attendance. However, the town government study committee reviewed 15 years of town meeting attendance records and argued that attendance was driven by issues and not by the date of town meeting.
In other business, the school committee:
• Heard school improvement plan presentations from the principals of the four public schools in Duxbury. These plans are available on the school department’s Web site on the assistant superintendent’s page.
• Learned that the middle and high school building project is moving along with the erection of the steel beams and girders that will make up the frame of the new building. Progress of the construction can be see on the school department’s Web site via an onsite webcam.