Annual reports mailed to residents

BROOKLINE – For years, residents have picked up copies of the annual town report at Town Hall or the transfer station, a hit-or-miss way of getting information in advance of the annual town and school meetings.

This year, the books will be delivered to each household.

The town is mailing out roughly 1,700 copies, which will include a primer on Town Meeting written for anyone who wants to learn about the process.

“It’s similar to being a shareholder in a company where they send out the annual report to investors,” selectman Tad Putney said. “We’re all shareholders of the town.”

Taxpayers shouldn’t worry about the home delivery boosting their expenses. Putney said the cost of mailing 1,700 reports by first-class mail was prohibitive at $5,000, but the bulk rate of $607 and the print ing costs add up to $1 per household.

“The town report should be in mailboxes by March 1, a few days before the start of the annual meetings,” Putney said.

Putney said the idea came from a citizens group that met weekly for five weeks last spring.

Dubbed a “study circle,” the group of roughly two-dozen volunteers engaged in brainstorming, coming up with ideas for maintaining aspects of town life they value and considering ways to make improvements.

Putney said the effort was part of the town’s master plan update, a process undertaken every decade.

“It’s the planning board’s purview,” Putney said, adding that because the board is so busy with day-to-day responsibilities, he suggested the study circle, a strategy used by other communities.

Putney said members of the study circle put together a survey, distributed during the last election, that asked voters what they needed to become more involved in decisions affecting the town.

Of 970 voters who filled out the survey, 500, or 52 percent, said they would like more information in advance of the town and school meetings, Putney said.

In addition to the Town Meeting primer included in the annual report, Putney said residents would see plenty of reminders about the annual meetings.

“We should treat it like a wedding,” he said, conjuring images of “save the date” reminders, signage around town and notices on the Brookline Yahoo site, an online community social network.

Town Meeting is scheduled for March 11. The Brookline School District and cooperative school district meetings will be held on March 3 and 4 respectively.

Voters looking to get a jump-start, however, should consider attending the town’s budget hearings at 7 p.m. Jan. 26 and 27 at Town Hall.

Spending decisions are largely made at these hearings, and the meetings are also an opportunity to ask questions, Putney said.