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Vermont prepares for town meeting day

MONTPELIER, Vt. — Vermonters will take on budgeting, elections, and issues like energy and public banks this town meeting day.

At the annual meeting, Vermonters discuss electing municipal officers, approve budgets, examine zoning bylaws, authorize long-term capital borrowing, and decide the operating calendar for the town. Issues that will be taken up across the state Tuesday include familiar topics such as school board budgets and local elections.

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The tradition of town meeting stretches back to 1762 when the first recorded town meeting in state lines was held in Bennington, according to the Vermont secretary of state’s website.

Steven Jeffrey, executive director of the Vermont League of Cities and Towns, said in an e-mail that school budgeting issues are usually a major focus.

‘‘As property taxes go up, the issue of school budgets takes more of a center stage,’’ Jeffrey said.

Besides items like spending and bylaw revisions, many towns also take up nonbinding resolutions and poll questions.

Jeffrey said the items have ‘‘little place on the agenda when the purpose of the meeting is to actually govern ourselves,” but supporters of resolutions and poll questions believe it’s a way for citizens to voice their opinions on big topics and discuss broader issues.

Poll questions and resolutions in years past have ranged from asking residents if they think President George W. Bush should be impeached to thoughts on tar sands oil. This year, Vermont Public Radio reports that at least 20 communities will take up a resolution about supporting the concept of a public bank.

Energy is also a hot topic for towns in the path of a new gas pipeline. Shoreham and Cornwall will be taking up nonbinding articles in the matter. In Lowell, a nonbinding antiwind power article was added to the Town Meeting agenda this year by court order after it had been passed over two years ago without discussion.

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