What is Town Meeting?

The Town of Newbury has an “Open” Town Meeting form of government.  Any registered voter may vote at Town Meeting.  Each Town in Massachusetts must hold at least one Town Meeting annually in February, March, April or May; however in Newbury our Bylaw 34-1, states that the Annual Town Meeting shall be held on the fourth Tuesday in May.  Notwithstanding the foregoing however, the Selectmen may, in their discretion, vote to designate any other date in April or May to hold the Annual Town Meeting.

Special Town Meetings may also be called for other business as the Selectmen deem necessary, and may also be called by petition of at least two hundred registered voters of the town.  

The business or agenda of each Town Meeting is contained in a document known as the “warrant.”

This will include all “articles” which the Town will act on at that particular Town Meeting, as well as the date, time and place of the Town Meeting.  The order of the articles is determined by the Selectmen in the warrant and the articles will be addressed in this order unless the Town Meeting chooses by a 4/5 vote in the affirmative to take an article out of such order.  Any action taken at Town Meeting is not valid unless the article was listed on the warrant.

Once the warrant is “closed” and signed by the Selectmen at a meeting of the Board, no other business can be brought before the Town Meeting.  Warrants are posted on the main board at Town Hall as well as locations in both polling locations one week before an Annual Town Meeting and two weeks before a Special Town Meeting. Copies are available at Town Hall the week before the Meeting and also at the Meeting.

Town Meeting considers and adopts an annual operating budget.  It considers and acts on other matters which require Town Meeting action, such as additions or amendments to the general or zoning bylaws, street acceptances, articles sponsored by other departments and annual “housekeeping” articles, as well as Citizens’ Petitions.

Citizen’s Petitions
Upon the timely petition of at least ten registered voters of the Town, the Selectmen shall insert into the warrant any article requested of them in writing.  The sponsor of the petition will be contacted prior to Town Meeting to review the article at a meeting of the board of Selectmen for informational purposes.  The sponsor of the article is also generally the person who will make a motion on the floor of Town Meeting to act on the article – the Town is not required to make motions for citizen’s petitions.

As noted in the Code of the Town of Newbury, Section 34-6, as voted at the Annual Town Meeting of March 17, 1936, Article 11, states that forty (40) qualified voters shall constitute a quorum at Town Meetings; provided that a number less than a quorum may from time to time adjourn the same.  This By-Law shall not apply to such parts of meetings as are devoted exclusively to the election of Town Officers.

Protocol and Procedures
Every voter must check-in at the tables set up before entering the main meeting room.  Persons wishing to be recognized to speak at the meeting should raise their hand and wait to be recognized by the Moderator.  Once recognized by the Moderator, the person must state their name and address before speaking.

The Moderator presides over Town Meeting and regulates the proceedings, decides all questions of order, and makes public declaration of all votes taken at the meeting.  No person may address the meeting until they are recognized by the Moderator, and all persons shall, at the request of the Moderator, be silent.  Violators may be removed from the meeting at the direction of the Moderator.  In addition, proper courtesy should be extended to all speakers at all times, and cell phones should be silenced upon entering the meeting.

Non-Registered Voters and Visitors
Although Town Meeting is a “public” meeting and all persons (registered or not) may attend the meeting, non-registered visitors must sign-in at the visitor table and be given a “visitor” name tag.  Visitors are then assigned to special seating designated by the Moderator.  Non-registered persons may not make motions, nor shall they be allowed to vote on any matter before the meeting.


  • A “motion” is the form in which an article is presented to the meeting for action.  The motion is usually made by a member of the board/committee sponsoring the article (Selectmen, Planning, School, etc.); or in the case of an article brought forward by Citizens Petition, the sponsor of the petition.
  • A motion on the floor before Town Meeting may be amended by any registered voter after recognition by the Moderator.  All motions and amendments must be made in writing, signed, and presented to the Moderator after stating the same to the meeting.
  • The Moderator will determine if an amendment is within the scope of the original article.
  • Following discussion on the motion or amendment, a voter or the Moderator will call for a vote. If an amendment to a motion is on the floor, the vote will be on the amendment portion only.  Each amendment must be voted on before moving to another amendment or the main motion.
  • If the amendment is approved, the Moderator will allow discussion on the main motion as amended; if not approved, another amendment may be made or further discussion on the original main motion before voting.
  •  A registered voter may make a motion to “move to the question” which will end discussion and call for the vote (a 2/3 vote is required to end debate); or if the Moderator determines that there is no further discussion, he will call for the vote.
  • When only a majority vote is required, the sense of the meeting shall be determined by a voice vote which will be declared by the Moderator as it appears to him.
  • When a 2/3, 4/5 or 9/10 vote of a town meeting is required by statute, the count shall be taken, and the vote shall be recorded in the records by the Clerk;  provided, however, that if a 2/3 vote of a town meeting is required by statute, the Moderator need not take a count and the Clerk shall record the vote as declared by the Moderator unless a town meeting member orally objects to such declaration before the vote is recorded by the Clerk; and provided, further, that if the vote is unanimous, a count need not be taken, and the Clerk shall record the vote as unanimous.
  • If the Moderator is in doubt or if his decision is immediately questioned by seven or more voters standing in their place, he shall order a hand-count to determine the vote and the result shall be recorded by the Town Clerk.
  • If the vote is “unanimous,” the count need not be taken and the Clerk shall record it as such.
  • After a vote has been declared by the Moderator, the meeting shall move on to the next article.
  • There are no provisions in State Law which allow for absentee voting or voting-by-proxy for any and all of the articles on the warrant of any Town Meeting.  

Town Officials
A summary of the basic role of Town Officials at the Town Meeting:

  • Moderator; presides over, conducts the meeting, maintains order, and declares all votes of the meeting.
  • Town Clerk; official recording secretary of the meeting;  certifies all actions of Town Meeting.
  • Board of Selectmen; five-member elected policy making body;  prepares the warrant; makes recommendations to the meeting.
  • Finance Committee; seven-member committee appointed by the Selectmen; reviews the budget; makes recommendations on all financial matters with an explanation for or against each;  may present relevant information to assist Town Meeting in making financial decisions.
  • Town Administrator; has primary responsibility for the budget;  works with the Finance Committee; is an information resource at the meeting.
  • School Committee; nine member elected committee, comprised of representatives from the three districts that make up the Triton Regional School system; prepares the school budget; determines educational policy.
  • Superintendent of Schools; implements school committee policy and directives.
  • Planning Board; five member elected board; presents recommendations and oral or written reports to Town Meeting on all planning and zoning-related matters.
  • Town Counsel; advisor to all boards, committees and the Town Meeting.