In Wisconsin, the power to set the town tax levy, determine the salaries of our elected representatives, and a few other items resides not with the elected Town Board, but rather with Town citizens attending a Town Meeting. In addition, our board must have authorization from a Town Meeting to do several things, such as purchase or sell real property.
State statutes require that Towns have a minimum of two “town meetings” each year. The first, held in April, is called the “annual town meeting”. It often includes a report by the chair on what has transpired in the town during the preceding year. It provides an opportunity for residents of the town (called electors for the purpose of town meetings) to comment on any issues facing the town. Items that can be discussed or acted on at the annual meeting are not constrained by the published agenda. Motions passed at the town meetings that deal with areas reserved by law for electors become official town actions. Resolutions in other areas are advisory for the board.
The second meeting is a special town meeting at which electors determine the tax levy for the town. The town board subsequently approves the budget within the constraint of the levy set by the electors. The board usually calls this special town meeting for early November.
Participation in town meetings is often rather light. As a result, some important decisions, such as how large the town property tax will be, are made by a very small group of citizens. Some say that this is democracy at its best. The people, not the politicians make the important decisions. Others worry that those making the decision are neither elected representatives nor a majority of the citizens. Indeed, in most cases, they are a very small minority. Come to our town meetings and participate if you reside in Berry! It’s better and more fun than complaining about what someone else did!