How Guilford Works

Incorporated in 1639, Guilford is a town of forty-seven square miles located on Long Island Sound in the County of New Haven. Its estimated 2005 population is 22,307.

FORM OF GOVERNMENT
Guilford has a town meeting government, which is New England’s traditional form of municipal administration. Given the long history of the region, however, towns have developed a wide variety of models. Guilford uses a Board of Selectmen-Board of Finance-Town Meeting model that gives significant powers to a Board of Selectmen as well as a Board of Finance. It entails: an elected executive body–the Board of Selectmen; an elected fiscal oversight body–the Board of Finance; an open legislative body–the Town Meeting; and a number of policy-making or review bodies–Town Boards and Commissions. Members of the Board of Education and the Board of Assessment Appeals are also elected, while other board and commission members are appointed.

Town Code

Guilford’s Town Code includes its charter, its ordinances, and town-specific legislation such as the Zoning Code and the Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Regulations.

The Town Charter defines how Guilford governs itself and establishes the powers and responsibilities of elected officials. To manage the Town’s evolving governance needs, Guilford periodically reviews its charter by means of a Charter Revision Commission appointed by the Board of Selectmen. Charter revision follows a rigorous review process which includes commission meetings to which the public is invited, one or more Public Hearings, and a Referendum.

Ordinances are local laws of general applicability that regulate matters ranging from building codes and elections to family services and taxation. Ordinances are adopted by the Board of Selectmen following both a Public Hearing and a Town Meeting.

TOWN MEETINGS

The structure and schedule of Guilford’s Town Meetings derive from its charter and State statute. A mandatory Annual Town Meeting takes place on the second Monday in May. Additional Town Meetings are called by the Board of Selectmen as needed. In response to a petition by fifty or more qualified voters, the selectmen may also call a Town Meeting. Such meetings are publicly announced in the Guilford Courier or the New Haven Register five days beforehand. Meeting agendas are prepared by the selectmen.

In some instances, the Town Meeting has been replaced by a Referendum, a town-wide machine vote. The only one regularly scheduled is the Annual Budget Referendum held in April. Others are scheduled to approve expenditures in excess of one million dollars or to establish a bond. Open to all qualified residents, referendum voting takes place in the same polling locations used for elections. See Voting Requirements.

CITIZEN PARTICIPATION

Both a privilege and a responsibility, citizen participation is key to an effective town meeting form of government. Guilford residents are expected to become involved in civic affairs and help Town officials make informed policy decisions. At a minimum, they should vote and attend Town Meetings as well as public hearings. Such events are announced in the weekly Guilford Courier, the Town?s paper of record, or the daily New Haven Register. The agendas of public meetings are also listed on the Town website. Beyond this, residents may run for elective office or volunteer to serve on one of the Town’s appointed boards and commissions.

Where To Vote

Guilford has five voting districts. To identify your district or polling location, see Voting Districts. Elections take place on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November. Municipal elections are held in odd-numbered years, while those for State Assembly Representatives and State Assembly Senator are held in even-numbered years.

Local News Sources

Several local news outlets facilitate citizen participation in Town government. Guilford Community Television (GCTV) shows prerecorded videos on cable channels 18, 19, 20 of public hearings and official meetings, including regular meetings of the Board of Selectmen, the Board of Finance, the Board of Education, and the Planning and Zoning Commission, and significant meetings of the Inland Wetlands Commission. The Guilford Courier covers local events. Regional events are covered by the New Haven Register and Hartford Courant.

BOARDS & COMMISSIONS

Guilford’s four elected boards are outlined below. For other governmental bodies appointed by the selectmen, see the List of Boards & Commissions.

Board of Selectmen

Guilford has a five person Board of Selectmen (BOS) consisting of one full-time and four part-time salaried members. All are elected for two-year terms and it takes three selectmen to make a quorum. The First Selectman works full-time as the Town’s chief executive and administrative officer, but the board as a whole oversees the Town’s executive and administrative functions.

The BOS administers the Town’s public works and social service programs, approves all Town expenditures except those for the schools, and maintains the Town’s financial and legal records. An Annual Town Report, supervised by the selectmen and created in collaboration with all Town boards and commissions, is officially received at the Annual Town Meeting. Once published, it is available free of charge at Town Hall.

In contrast to some town meeting models, Guilford’s BOS can initiate and adopt ordinances. After a public hearing on a proposed ordinance, the BOS may enact it, reject it, or refer it to a Town Meeting for endorsement by qualified voters.

The BOS meets twice monthly on the first and third Mondays. Each meeting begins and ends with a brief public forum. Citizens may address agenda issues in the opening forum; they may raise issues not on the agenda in the closing forum. Although subject to change, meetings on the first Monday of the month are currently held at 8:30am in the Selectmans wing of the Town Hall. BOS meetings are televised on GCTV.

Board of Finance

The Board of Finance (BOF) has seven unpaid members elected to serve staggered four-year terms. The board’s main function is to balance the Town budget. It reviews and approves the annual budget and oversees expenditures for both the Town and the Board of Education. The BOF also sets an annual mill rate for local taxes and oversees an annual audit of municipal books.

Since the fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 30, budget preparation begins in December and is presented at a public hearing in March. If changes are needed, the revised budget is presented at a second public hearing in April. In late April or early May, the final budget is approved in a two-step process: Town Meeting and Referendum. BOF meetings, held on the third Monday of each month at 7:30pm in the Community Center, are televised on GCTV.

Board of Education

The Board of Education (BOE) has nine unpaid members elected to serve staggered four-year terms. The board’s principal function is to insure that students in Guilford receive the best possible education in compliance with State and Federal regulations. To accomplish this, the BOE hires the Superintendent of Schools, sets school policies, prepares the school budget, and supervises school expenditures.

The BOE meets on the second and fourth Mondays of the month, except in July and August when only one meeting occurs. The first meeting of each month is held in the Guilford High School at 7:30pm. The second meeting is reserved for committee work. BOE meetings are open to the public and also televised on GCTV. For more information see the BOE website.

Board of Assessment Appeals

The Board of Assessment Appeals, formerly Board of Tax Review, has three unsalaried, elected members who serve four-year terms. Its chief function is to hear appeals from taxpayers who challenge their assessment. The board meets in March to hear real property, personal property, and motor vehicle appeals. It also meets in September but only to hear motor vehicle appeals.

TOWN DEPARTMENTS

Town Hall, located on the Green at 31 Park Street, houses the First Selectman’s Office, Assessor, Finance Director, Registrar of Voters, and Town Clerk. Town Hall South, located at 50 Boston Street, houses the departments of Building & Engineering, Health, and Planning & Zoning. Other department locations can be found on the Town website .

Helpful Town Links

TOWN-STATE RELATIONSHIP

Connecticut’s legislative body is the General Assembly, which consists of a Senate and a House of Representatives. Its 187 members, 36 in the Senate and 151 in the House, serve two-year terms. While committees usually work year-round, Assembly sessions formally convene in January or February and adjourn in May or June.

Guilford is in the 12th Senatorial District along with Branford, Durham, Killingworth, Madison, and North Branford. State Senator Ted Kennedy Jr., a Democrat and a Guilford resident, serves that district.

Since it is part of the 98th and 101st Assembly Districts, Guilford has two State Representatives, both Democrats:

State Law & Home Rule

Municipalities are political subdivisions of the State and Guilford may act only as authorized by Connecticut statutes. The 1957 statutory home rule law, however, does allow towns to write and adopt their own charters. So, except where forbidden by State statute, Guilford manages local and municipal matters.

While the State sets certain standards, the Town may in some instances adopt stricter provisions. For example, the State has established standards for acceptable noise levels; and, while Town noise regulations must meet State requirements, Guilford has the right to make its local noise regulations more rigorous. The same is true for zoning regulations.

Regional Government

Because many public policy issues cannot be addressed solely within the boundaries of a single municipality, the Connecticut General Assembly passed laws in 2000 and 2001 that permit and encourage two or more municipalities to jointly perform any function that each has the right to perform separately. Guilford, for example, has joined with Madison in operating its transfer station.

The State has established Regional Planning Organizations to address planning and policy issues as well as to promote a more efficient use of area resources. Guilford is in the South Central Regional Council of Governments or SCRCOG.

List of Boards & Commissions

Made up of qualified volunteers appointed by the selectmen, Guilford’s non-elected governmental bodies perform invaluable functions for the Town, including contributing to lower operating costs. Residents are welcome at all regularly scheduled board and commission meetings, which usually allow time in their agendas for public comments.

With gratitude for their advancement of the public good, the names of Guilford’s current boards and commissions are listed below, followed parenthetically with either their legislative source or the year of the Town’s establishing ordinance. For more information about specific boards and commissions, their missions or meeting times, see the Town website.

  • Agricultural Commission (2006)
  • Board of Assessment Appeals (State Statute)
  • Board of Education (Town Charter)
  • Board of Ethics (Town Charter)
  • Board of Finance (Town Charter)
  • Board of Fire Commissioners (Town Charter)
  • Board of Police Commissioners (Town Charter)
  • Board of Selectmen (Town Charter)
  • Building Code Board of Appeals (State Statute)
  • Charter Revision Commission (Occasional)
  • Conservation Commission (1963)
  • Design Review Committee (2000)
  • Economic Development Commission (1956)
  • Guilford Green Committee (1982)
  • Guilford Lakes Golf Course Commission (1996)
  • Harbor Management Commission (1984)
  • Historic District Commission (1987)
  • Housing Authority (1967)
  • Housing Partnership (1989)
  • Human Services Council (1975)
  • Inland Wetlands Commission (1973)
  • Land Acquisition Commission (2001)
  • Marina Commission (1962)
  • Parks & Recreation Commission (1962)
  • Pension Committee (1965)
  • Planning & Zoning Commission (Town Charter)
  • Scenic Roads Advisory Committee (1997)
  • Shellfish Commission (1984)
  • Standing Building Committee (1986)
  • Standing Fields Committee (1998)
  • Tax Stabilization Committee (2000)
  • Town Center South Planning Project Committee (2004)
  • Transfer Station Advisory Committee (1980)
  • Tree Advisory Board (1993)
  • Water Pollution Control Authority (State Statute)
  • Youth & Family Services Board (2004)
  • Zoning Board of Appeals (Town Charter)