Budget hearing scrapped due to agenda error

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North Attleborough Town Hall
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A public hearing on the Fiscal Year 2024 budget was canceled after it was discovered the meeting was not listed on the online agenda.

The Town Council was to hold the hearing before members of the public on May 22.   Public hearings are a required part of the budget process, as it allows residents to provide feedback.

When the meeting began, Councilor Mark Gould said he was confused why the council was holding the hearing that night when the online agenda did not list the meeting.

“It’s not on the agenda,” Gould noted.  “I think people would be confused about this.”

Town Manager Michael Borg told Gould that the meeting notice was posted online on various websites. Council President Justin Pare then called a recess to converse with Borg and Vice President John Simmons to decide if they should hold the meeting. The three, along with the rest of the council, agreed to postpone the meeting so as not to violate the state’s Open Meeting Law which requires public hearings to be listed on agendas.

“If something is not on the agenda, it really shouldn’t be discussed or debated as there is a chance the public might not be aware despite the advertisements,” Pare said. “It’s just best practice to ensure utmost transparency.”

Under Massachusetts law, towns and cities are required to pass a budget by the end of the fiscal year on June 30.  If a municipality does not pass a budget by that time, it would not be able to fund necessary services such as public works or transportation.

Pare said the council will re-advertise the hearing and list it on the next agenda. He said the hearing will likely be held at the next Town Council meeting in two weeks.

“Mistakes happen,’ he said. “Fortunately, we always build an extra two weeks into the budget calendar just in case. So, we are covered.”