Thursday, February 2, 2017

Town Meetings and School Meetings - What is the Difference?

There is sometimes confusion about voting on Town Budgets and School Budgets.  In this post I will try to clear up some questions that we receive regularly here at Town Hall.

The Town of Waterville Valley and the Waterville Valley School District are two separate legal entities.  As two distinct organizations they are governed by two different bodies and they are operated under the control of two different boards.  Let's take a look at each group and how they are set up.

The Waterville Valley School District

The Waterville Valley School District is a one-town school district governed by the Waterville Valley School District Meeting and operated under the control of the Waterville Valley School Board.  All voters registered in the Town of Waterville Valley are eligible to participate in the School District Meeting each year.

The School District meeting is held the Monday before Town meeting, and this year that will be on Monday, March 13th.  The meeting is just like a town meeting with a deliberative session run by a School District Moderator which takes up different articles on a warrant.  The School District budget is discussed and voted on by the District Meeting.  Each article on the warrant is present to the District Meeting and can, in most cases, be amended by the voters before they are voted on.  All of the money used to run the school and educate children from Waterville Valley has to be approved by the District Meeting.  In the case of the School District the budget year starts on July 1st after the meeting and runs through June 30th of the following year.

Once the budget is approved, the 3-member School Board controls expenses during the year working in conjunction with the Elementary School Principal.  School Board members have to approve all expenditures for the District during the year and make sure that all financial reports are prepared and shared with the District Meeting annually.  The School Board is assisted by School Administrative Unit 48 (SAU 48) in Plymouth in matters such as Special Education, Legal and Financial Administration.  The SAU office handles bookkeeping duties in cooperation with the elected School District Clerk/Treasurer.  The School Board usually meets once a month on the second Thursday of the month at 4PM at the School.

This relationship with SAU 48 is also important because once a student graduates from middle school into high school they are eligible to attend Plymouth Regional High School (PRHS) operated by SAU 48.  The School District pays an annual tuition amount for each student who attends PRHS.

It is important to note that because the WV School District is a one-town district all appropriations approved by the School District Meeting go onto the Town tax rate. This is the same as the Town Budget appropriations made at Town Meeting.

The Town of Waterville Valley

The Town of Waterville Valley is a New Hampshire municipality operating under the laws of the State of NH and governed by the Town Meeting/Board of Selectmen/Town Manager form of government.

Town Meeting is held the second Tuesday of March each year, this year it is March 14th, under the control of the Town Moderator.  The meeting starts with ballot voting and the polls are open for a number of hours for elections and votes on ballot issues such as changes to the Town Zoning Ordinance.  The ballot includes the elected officials of the School District as well as elected Town officials.

After the polls have closed, the Town Moderator will call a deliberative session to order.  The deliberative session is when voters come together to review and vote on Town budget information for the coming fiscal year.  The Town's fiscal year runs from January 1st before the meeting through December 31st of that year.  The budget information is presented in articles set out in a warrant posted and published prior to the meeting.  All of the articles may be discussed and changed (in most cases) by vote of the Town Meeting.  All of the money used to run Town Departments, including grants and other sources of income, has to be approved by the Town Meeting.

Once Town Meeting has approved appropriations for the year, the Board of Selectmen supervise the expenditure of funds through the Town Manager.  The Manager is the day-to-day supervisor of Town Personnel and makes sure that the Town meets the goals and objectives set out by the Selectmen.  The Manager is also responsible to monitor the budget and approve the daily expenditures from each department.  In Waterville Valley the Town Manager also serves as the appointed Tax Collector.  In many NH towns the Tax Collector position is combined with the Town Clerk duties and it is an elected position.

The Board of Selectmen meets twice a month, usually the second and fourth Wednesdays at 3PM at Town Hall, to review operations with the Town Manager and Department Heads and to take input from the general public about different issues in Town.


I hope that this has helped explain the basic differences between the Town and the School District.  There are always exception to these general rules, but for the most part, these basics will hold true in the operation of both organizations.  There is much more detail that we could present, but I wanted to give you some basics before we get too far into the 2017 budget discussions.  If you have any questions about this information you can contact me by email at

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