TITLE III
TOWNS, CITIES, VILLAGE DISTRICTS, AND UNINCORPORATED PLACES

CHAPTER 40
GOVERNMENT OF TOWN MEETING

Optional Form of Meeting-Official Ballot Referenda

Section 40:13

    40:13 Use of Official Ballot. –
I. Notwithstanding RSA 39:3-d, RSA 40:4-e, or any other provision of law, any local political subdivision as defined in RSA 40:12 which has adopted this subdivision shall utilize the official ballot for voting on all issues before the voters.
II. The warrant for any annual meeting shall prescribe the place, day and hour for each of 2 separate sessions of the meeting, and notice shall be given as otherwise provided in this section. Final budgets and ballot questions shall be printed in the annual report made available to the legislative body at least one week before the date of the second session of the annual meeting.
II-a. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, all local political subdivisions which adopt this subdivision, who have not adopted an April or May election date under RSA 40:14, X, shall comply with the following schedule pertaining to notice, petitioned articles, hearings, and warrants for the annual meeting:
(a) The final date for posting notice of budget hearings under RSA 32:5 and RSA 195:12 and hearings under RSA 33:8-a shall be the second Tuesday in January.
(b) The "budget submission date" as defined in RSA 273-A:1, III and the final date for submission of petitioned articles under RSA 39:3 and RSA 197:6 shall be the second Tuesday in January, provided however, that if a petitioned article proposes a bond governed by RSA 33:8-a, the deadline shall be the preceding Friday.
(c) Budget hearings under RSA 32:5 and RSA 195:12 and hearings under RSA 33:8-a shall be held on or before the third Tuesday in January. One or more supplemental budget hearings may be held at any time before the first session of the annual meeting, subject to the 7-day notice requirement in RSA 32:5. If the first hearing or any supplemental hearing is recessed to a later date or time, additional notice shall not be required for a supplemental session if the date, time, and place of the supplemental session are made known at the original hearing. In a political subdivision that has adopted a municipal budget committee pursuant to RSA 32:14, the last day for the budget committee to deliver copies of the final budget and recommendations to the governing body pursuant to RSA 32:16, IV shall be the Thursday before the last Monday in January.
(d) Warrants under RSA 39:5 and RSA 197:7 and budgets shall be posted and copies available to the general public on or before the last Monday in January.
II-b. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, all political subdivisions which hold their annual meetings in April shall comply with the following schedule pertaining to notice, petitioned articles, hearings, and warrants for the annual meeting.
(a) The final date for posting notice of budget hearings under RSA 32:5 and RSA 195:12 and hearings under RSA 33:8-a shall be the second Tuesday in February.
(b) The "budget submission date" as defined in RSA 273-A:1, III and the final date for submission of petitioned articles under RSA 39:3 and RSA 197:6 shall be the second Tuesday in February, provided however, that if a petitioned article proposes a bond governed by RSA 33:8-a, the deadline shall be the preceding Friday.
(c) Budget hearings under RSA 32:5 and RSA 195:12 and hearings under RSA 33:8-a shall be held on or before the third Tuesday in February. One or more supplemental budget hearings may be held at any time before the first session of the annual meeting, subject to the 7-day notice requirement in RSA 32:5. If the first hearing or any supplemental hearing is recessed to a later date or time, additional notice shall not be required for a supplemental session if the date, time, and place of the supplemental session are made known at the original hearing. In a political subdivision that has adopted a municipal budget committee pursuant to RSA 32:14, the last day for the budget committee to deliver copies of the final budget and recommendations to the governing body pursuant to RSA 32:16, IV shall be the Thursday before the last Monday in February.
(d) Warrants under RSA 39:5 and RSA 197:7 and budgets shall be posted and copies available to the general public on or before the last Monday in February.
II-c. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, all political subdivisions which hold their annual meetings in May shall comply with the following schedule pertaining to notice, petitioned articles, hearings, and warrants for the annual meeting:
(a) The final date for posting notice of budget hearings under RSA 32:5 and RSA 195:12 and hearings under RSA 33:8-a shall be the second Tuesday in March.
(b) The "budget submission date" as defined in RSA 273-A:1, III and the final date for submission of petitioned articles under RSA 39:3 and RSA 197:6 shall be the second Tuesday in March, provided however, that if a petitioned article proposes a bond governed by RSA 33:8-a, the deadline shall be the preceding Friday.
(c) Budget hearings under RSA 32:5 and RSA 195:12 and hearings under RSA 33:8-a shall be held on or before the third Tuesday in March. One or more supplemental budget hearings may be held at any time before the first session of the annual meeting, subject to the 7-day notice requirement in RSA 32:5. If the first hearing or any supplemental hearing is recessed to a later date or time, additional notice shall not be required for a supplemental session if the date, time, and place of the supplemental session are made known at the original hearing. In a political subdivision that has adopted a municipal budget committee pursuant to RSA 32:14, the last day for the budget committee to deliver copies of the final budget and recommendations to the governing body pursuant to RSA 32:16, IV shall be the Thursday before the last Monday in March.
(d) Warrants under RSA 39:5 and RSA 197:7 and budgets shall be posted and copies available to the general public on or before the last Monday in March.
II-d. The voter checklist shall be updated in accordance with RSA 669:5 for each session of the annual meeting.
III. The first session of the annual meeting, which shall be for the transaction of all business other than voting by official ballot, shall be held between the first and second Saturdays following the last Monday in January, inclusive of those Saturdays; between the first and second Saturdays following the last Monday in February, inclusive of those Saturdays; or between the first and second Saturdays following the last Monday in March, inclusive of those Saturdays at a time prescribed by the local political subdivision's governing body.
IV. The first session of the meeting, governed by the provisions of RSA 40:4, 40:4-a, 40:4-b, 40:4-f, and 40:6-40:10, shall consist of explanation, discussion, and debate of each warrant article, including warrant articles pertaining to the operating budget and the default budget. A vote to restrict reconsideration shall be deemed to prohibit any further action on the restricted article until the second session, and RSA 40:10, II shall not apply. Warrant articles may be amended at the first session, subject to the following limitations:
(a) Warrant articles whose wording is prescribed by law shall not be amended.
(b) Warrant articles that are amended shall be placed on the official ballot for a final vote on the main motion, as amended.
(c) No warrant article shall be amended to eliminate the subject matter of the article. An amendment that changes the dollar amount of an appropriation in a warrant article shall not be deemed to violate this subparagraph.
V. [Repealed.]
V-a. The legislative body of any town, school district, or village district may vote to require that all votes by an advisory budget committee, a town, school district, or village district budget committee, and the governing body or, in towns, school districts, or village districts without a budget committee, all votes of the governing body relative to budget items or any warrant articles or ballot questions shall be recorded votes and the numerical tally of any such vote shall be printed in the town, school district, or village district warrant next to the affected warrant article or on the ballot next to the affected ballot question. Unless the legislative body has voted otherwise, if a town or school district has not voted to require such tallies to be printed in the town or school district warrant next to the affected warrant article or on the ballot next to the affected ballot question, the governing body may do so on its own initiative.
VI. All warrant articles shall be placed on the official ballot for a final vote, including warrant articles as amended by the first session. All special warrant articles shall be accompanied on the ballot by recommendations as required by RSA 32:5, V, concerning any appropriation or appropriation as amended. For any article that proposes the adoption or amendment of an ordinance, a topical description of the substance of the ordinance or amendment, which shall be neutral in its language, may be placed on the official ballot instead of the full text of the ordinance or amendment, subject to the provisions of paragraphs VII-a and VIII-a. With respect to the adoption or amendment of a zoning ordinance, historic district ordinance, or building code, the provisions of RSA 675:3 shall govern to the extent they are inconsistent with anything contained in this paragraph or in paragraph VII-a or VIII-a.
VII. The second session of the annual meeting, which is the official ballot voting day as defined in RSA 652:16-g, to elect officers of the local political subdivision by official ballot, to vote on questions required by law to be inserted on said official ballot, and to vote on all warrant articles from the first session on official ballot, shall be held on the second Tuesday in March, the second Tuesday in April, or the second Tuesday in May, as applicable unless it is postponed in accordance with RSA 40:4, II(b) and RSA 669:1. Notwithstanding RSA 669:1, 670:1, or 671:2, the second session shall be deemed the annual election date for purposes of all applicable election statutes including, but not limited to, RSA 669:5, 669:19, 669:30, 670:3, 670:4, 670:11, 671:15, 671:19, and 671:30 through 32; and votes on zoning ordinances, historic district ordinances, and building codes under RSA 675.
VII-a. When a topical description of the substance of a proposed ordinance or amendment to an ordinance is to be placed on the official ballot, an official copy of the proposed ordinance or amendment, including any amendment to the proposal adopted the first session, shall be placed on file and made available to the public at the office of the clerk of the political subdivision not later than one week prior to the date of the second session of the annual meeting. An official copy of the proposed ordinance or amendment shall be on display for the voters at the meeting place on the date of the meeting.
VIII. The clerk of the local political subdivision shall prepare an official ballot, which may be separate from the official ballot used to elect officers, for all warrant articles. Wording shall be substantively the same as the main motion, as it was made or amended at the first session, with only such minor textual changes as may be required to cast the motion in the form of a question to the voters.
VIII-a. A question as to the adoption or amendment of an ordinance shall be in substantially the following form:
"Are you in favor of the adoption of (amendment to) the ordinance as proposed by the selectmen as follows: (here insert text or topical description of proposed ordinance or amendment)?" In the event that there shall be more than a single proposed amendment to an ordinance to be submitted to the voters at any given meeting, the issue as to the several amendments shall be put in the following manner: "Are you in favor of the adoption of Amendment No.___ to the ordinance as proposed by the selectmen as follows: (here insert text or topical description of proposed amendment)?"
IX. (a) "Operating budget" as used in this subdivision means "budget," as defined in RSA 32:3, III, exclusive of "special warrant articles," as defined in RSA 32:3, VI, and exclusive of other appropriations voted separately.
(b) "Default budget" as used in this subdivision means the amount of the same appropriations as contained in the operating budget authorized for the previous year, reduced and increased, as the case may be, by debt service, contracts, and other obligations previously incurred or mandated by law, and reduced by one-time expenditures contained in the operating budget and by salaries and benefits of positions that have been eliminated in the proposed budget. For the purposes of this paragraph, one-time expenditures shall be appropriations not likely to recur in the succeeding budget, and eliminated positions shall not include vacant positions under recruitment or positions redefined in the proposed operating budget, as determined by the governing body, unless the provisions of RSA 40:14-b are adopted, of the local political subdivision. In calculating the default budget amount, the governing body shall follow the statutory formula which may result in a higher or lower amount than the proposed operating budget.
(c) "Contracts" as used in this subdivision means contracts previously approved, in the amount so approved, by the legislative body in either the operating budget authorized for the previous year or in a separate warrant article for a previous year.
X. If no operating budget article is adopted, the local political subdivision either shall be deemed to have approved the default budget or the governing body may hold a special meeting pursuant to paragraph XVI to take up the issue of a revised operating budget only; provided that RSA 31:5 and RSA 197:3 shall not apply to such a special meeting. If no operating budget article is adopted the estimated revenues shall nevertheless be deemed to have been approved.
XI. (a) The default budget shall be disclosed and presented for questions and discussion at the first budget hearing held pursuant to RSA 32:5 or RSA 197:6. The governing body, unless the provisions of RSA 40:14-b are adopted, shall complete a default budget form created by the department of revenue administration to demonstrate how the default budget amount was calculated. The line item details for changes under subparagraph (2) shall be available for inspection by voters. The form and associated calculations shall, at a minimum, include the following:
(1) Appropriations contained in the previous year's operating budget;
(2) Reductions and increases to the previous year's operating budget including identification of specific items that constitute a change by account code, and the reasons for each change;
(3) One-time expenditures as defined under subparagraph IX(b); and
(4) Reductions for eliminated positions and benefit expenditures as defined under subparagraph IX(b).
(b) This amount shall not be amended by the legislative body. However, this amount may be adjusted by the governing body, unless the provisions of RSA 40:14-b are adopted, acting on relevant new information at any time before the ballots are printed, provided the governing body, unless the provisions of RSA 40:14-b are adopted, completes an amended default budget form.
(c) The wording of the second session ballot question concerning the operating budget shall be as follows:
"Shall the (local political subdivision) raise and appropriate as an operating budget, not including appropriations by special warrant articles and other appropriations voted separately, the amounts set forth on the budget posted with the warrant or as amended by vote of the first session, for the purposes set forth therein, totaling $ ____________? Should this article be defeated, the default budget shall be $ __________, which is the same as last year, with certain adjustments required by previous action of the (local political subdivision) or by law; or the governing body may hold one special meeting, in accordance with RSA 40:13, X and XVI, to take up the issue of a revised operating budget only."
XI-a. If a political subdivision maintains a separate fund for the revenues and expenditures related to the operation, maintenance, and improvement of a water or sewer system, and if any appropriation for such fund is to be raised through user fees or charges and is included in a warrant article separate from the operating budget, the warrant article may include a default amount for such appropriation, which shall be deemed to have been approved if the proposed appropriation is not approved. The default amount shall be determined by the governing body, or by the budget committee if the political subdivision has adopted the provisions of RSA 40:14-b, and shall equal the amount of the same appropriation for the preceding fiscal year, reduced and increased, as the case may be, by debt service, contracts, and other obligations previously incurred or mandated by law, and reduced by one-time expenditures contained in the previous year's appropriation. The warrant article shall state the default amount for the appropriation and shall state that if the appropriation proposed in the article is not approved, the default amount shall be deemed to have been approved.
XII. Voting at the second session shall conform to the procedures for the nonpartisan ballot system as set forth in RSA 669:19-29, RSA 670:5-7 and RSA 671:20-30, including all requirements pertaining to absentee voting, polling place, and polling hours.
XIII. Approval of all warrant articles shall be by simple majority except for questions which require a 2/3 vote by law, contract, or written agreement.
XIV. Votes taken at the second session shall be subject to recount under RSA 669:30-33 and RSA 40:4-c.
XV. Votes taken at the second session shall not be reconsidered.
XVI. The warrant for any special meeting shall prescribe the date, place and hour for both a first and second session. The second session shall be warned for a date not fewer than 28 days nor more than 60 days following the first session. The first and second sessions shall conform to the provisions of this subdivision pertaining to the first and second sessions of annual meetings. Special meetings shall be subject to RSA 31:5, 39:3, 195:13, 197:2, and 197:3, provided that no more than one special meeting may be held to raise and appropriate money for the same question or issue in any one calendar year or fiscal year, whichever applies, and further provided that any special meeting held pursuant to paragraphs X and XI shall not be subject to RSA 31:5 and RSA 197:3 and shall not be counted toward the number of special meetings which may be held in a given calendar or fiscal year.
XVII. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, if the sole purpose of a special meeting is to consider the adoption, amendment, or repeal of a zoning ordinance, historic district ordinance, or building code pursuant to RSA 675, including the adoption of an emergency zoning and planning ordinance pursuant to RSA 675:4-a, the meeting shall consist of only one session, which shall be for voting by official ballot on the proposed ordinance, code, amendment, or repeal. The warrant for the meeting shall be posted in accordance with RSA 39:5.

Source. 1995, 164:1, eff. July 31, 1995. 1996, 276:1, 2, eff. June 10, 1996. 1997, 318:4, 5, 12, eff. Aug. 22, 1997. 1999, 86:1-3, eff. Aug. 2, 1999. 2000, 16:2, 3, 4, 5, eff. April 30, 2000. 2001, 71:5-7, eff. July 1, 2001. 2004, 219:1, eff. Aug. 10, 2004. 2007, 305:2, eff. Sept. 11, 2007. 2009, 2:2, eff. Feb. 20, 2009. 2010, 69:1, eff. July 18, 2010; 90:2-4, eff. July 24, 2010. 2011, 1:1, eff. Feb. 4, 2011; 57:1, eff. May 9, 2011. 2012, 217:2, eff. July 1, 2013. 2013, 116:1-3 eff. Aug. 24, 2013; 191:2, eff. Aug. 31, 2013. 2014, 7:1-4, eff. July 5, 2014; 190:1-3, 8-10, eff. Sept. 9, 2014. 2018, 241:1, 2, eff. Aug. 11, 2018; 313:1, 2, eff. Aug. 24, 2018. 2019, 192:2, eff. July 10, 2019.