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NO. 107. AN ACT RELATING TO COUNTY GOVERNMENT.

(H.134)

It is hereby enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Vermont:

Sec. 1. 24 V.S.A. § 133 is amended to read:

§ 133. COUNTY TAX; AMOUNT; ASSESSMENT

(a) Annually, the assistant judges shall prepare a proposed budget of the county for the ensuing year.

(b) Before a budget to be proposed at the annual meeting is finalized, the assistant judges shall hold a meeting to invite discussion of the preliminary proposed budget. The meeting to review the preliminary proposed budget shall take place at least 30 and not more than 40 days prior to the annual meeting. Notice of this meeting shall be published in all daily newspapers having general circulation in the county at least 14 days before the meeting. If a daily newspaper of general circulation is not published in the county, the notice shall be published in a weekly newspaper of general circulation in the county. A copy of the notice shall be mailed to the legislative bodies of the towns located in the county.

(c) Annually, on or before January 31, the assistant judges shall call a meeting of the voters of the county for the purpose of presenting the proposed budget of the county for the ensuing year and inviting discussion thereon. The meeting shall be held at a place within the county and shall be warned by a notice posted in three public places in the county and published in *[a newspaper of]* all daily newspapers having general circulation in the county at least 30 and not more than 40 days prior to the meeting. If a daily newspaper of general circulation is not published in the county, the notice shall be published in a weekly newspaper of general circulation in the county. The warning shall *[ contain by separate articles the provisions of the proposed budget]* include a summary of the expenditures being proposed for the various areas covered by the proposed budget and shall provide the public with information about how a copy of the proposal may be obtained. Members of legislative bodies of each of the towns within the county shall be notified of the meeting by *[certified]* mail. Copies of the proposed budget shall be availableto the public during normal business hours in the county courthouse and in the office of the clerks of the towns located in the county.

(g) The assistant judges shall hold the meetings required by this section at times convenient to the public.

(h) The fiscal year of the county shall end on January 31, unless the assistant judges, after discussion of the issue at the annual meeting, vote to have a different fiscal year, in which case the fiscal year so voted shall remain in effect until amended.

Sec. 2. 24 V.S.A. § 261 is amended to read:

§ 261. *[APPOINTMENT; DUTY]* COUNTY FINANCIAL AUDIT

(a) Biennially, all of the accounts of the county treasurer, including any reserve funds, shall be subject to a financial audit conducted according to the generally accepted government accounting standards as established by the federal government accounting office. The audit shall be performed by a public accountant regulated under Title 26 and shall be conducted within four months after the close of the fiscal year being audited. The accountant's report shall be accompanied by a management letter containing findings and recommendations.

(b) The assistant judges shall enter into a contract with a public accountant to perform the audits required by this section. The assistant judges may enter into a multiple year contract under this section, provided that the person to whom a contract is awarded is selected by use of an open request for proposals process.

Sec. 3. SURVEY

The legislative council staff shall conduct a survey of the assistant judges to determine compliance with the provisions of Secs. 1 and 2 of this act. The purpose of this survey is to help the general assembly determine whether additional legislative action is necessary to streamline the county budget process and make it more accessible to the public. The results of the survey shall be filed with the general assembly by January 15, 2001.

Sec. 4. REPEAL

24 V.S.A. § 262, relating to the county auditor, is repealed.

Sec. 5. EFFECTIVE DATE

This act shall take effect on January 1, 1999.

Approved: April 21, 1998