Sunday, February 6 at 2:00pm the Deliberative Session will be held for the Exeter Region Cooperative School District (ERCSD). I have been asked several times what a Deliberative Session is and why it is important. If you find yourself wondering, today is your lucky day—keep reading.
The Deliberative Session is a form of town meeting utilized in towns and schools across the state of NH. Technically it is RSA 40:13 (or known as SB2) and according to the NH Department of Revenue Administration is “form of town meeting with two sessions.”
Session 1: Deliberative
During this time, the proposed budget and warrant articles are explained, discussed, debated, and possibly amended.
Session 2: Voting
The Voting part of the meeting allows every registered voter who is present to cast a ballot to pass or fail the budget or warrant articles as proposed or amended.
If you have never been to a Deliberative session (and chances are if you didn’t grow up in NH this may be new for you), you should go simply for the experience. These meetings are a cross between the town meetings of Stars Hollow depicted in Gilmore Girls, Jerry Springer and “O Captain, My Captain” from Dead Poets Society. But most importantly, it is the one place where something that affects many will be decided by the few—in this case by the hundreds who attend.
The proposed budget for ERCSD is $65,293,749 and can be found here. A couple of things to consider:
1) Voters cannot specify specific cuts/additions to line items. They can express their desire to alter them, but the Exeter Region Cooperative School Board (ERCSB) are under no requirement to oblige. Voters in attendance can approve, fail to approve, or amend the proposed budget total at the Deliberative Session and this number will appear on the ballot. From there, voters can pass/fail the proposed budget total on the ballot on March 8.
2) ERCSB are accountable for the overall budget number. Legally they cannot spend over the approved amount, which is why unreserved fund balances exist in most municipal budgets. Technically after satisfying all budget obligations, the school board can vote to allocate any unreserved funds for whatever project or expense they and/or the school administration would like to complete.
One of the best explanations of the Town Meeting can be found here. The details in this article that are well worth the five minutes it will take to read. The town meeting can be summarized by these six rules (there are a total of fifteen referenced in the article):
1) Every voter is a legislator.
2) The moderator presides over the meeting and maintains order.
3) The voters can overrule the moderator by a majority.
4) It’s okay to ask questions.
5) No vote can be legally binding unless its subject matter was stated in the warrant.
6) Any vote can be reconsidered and rescinded.
In a world of efficiencies, Deliberative Sessions seem anything but. Voters are required to physically attend a meeting during the weekend that may span hours, can be either boring or filled with theatrics all without the benefit of concessions—purse wine is not allowed on school campuses. However, attending not only satisfies your civic duty, but also provides you with the opportunity to shape our school and community.
Mark your calendars to join us at EHS on Sunday, February 6 at 2:00pm. Bring your photo ID and your friends and neighbors!
If you still have questions about Deliberative Session (Gilmore Girls or purse wine), please send me an email: email@example.com.