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Burlington Take Steps Towards Possible Government Review

Burlington Select Board Chair Nick Priest on Monday raised the prospect of a government review, a process by which the town could examine whether its form of government was working, and what changes, if any, might streamline municipal operations. 

Burlington has tinkered with its own operations on a few occasions over its 224-year history: Originally established with an open Town Meeting format, it switched to a representative Town Meeting model through a Special Act in the 1970s. And a 2018 charter commission recommended changing the Treasurer/Tax Collector and Town Clerk positions from elected to appointed roles. 

“Over the last at least decade we’ve seen areas of opportunity where there could be greater efficiency through a variety of means,” Priest said. “What those means are I don’t exactly know, and I think that it would be wrong of one individual board to try and assume what is needed moving forward. So I want to officially open the conversation to say, as a board, what are we thinking, what are we feeling?” 

The form of the government review could vary; in Monday’s meeting, Select Board members considered several options, including a nine-member elected charter commission or a third-party contractor to make recommendations. 

In order to form a charter commission, the Select Board would need to petition the town and get 15 percent of registered voters to support the endeavor, Priest said. Then, a measure would be placed on the ballot for all voters to decide if a charter commission is necessary.

One specific change Priest suggested was switching the current Town Administrator position to a Town Manager job title that could come with more independence from the Select Board. 

“If we want to continue the conversation, I’m happy to begin shepherding that and see where it goes,” Priest said. “It might go nowhere. People might go, ‘No, we feel like what we have is fine.’ But after four years of being on this side of the table, there are definitely areas of opportunity where we can create efficiency.”