DANVERS — With municipal boards and committees forced to abide by coronavirus precautions, Selectmen Monday will be meeting online remotely for the first time – thanks to authority granted last Monday by Gov. Charlie Baker which relaxed provisions of Open Meeting Law.

Like many other communities, Danvers is facing a number of nonhealth-related challenges due to the pandemic – the timing of the setting of annual budget, Town Election and Annual Town Meeting.

On the agenda will be a vote for a month delay of the dates of the Town Election, originally scheduled for May 5, and the May Annual Town Meeting, which was on the calendar for May 18.

The board will be able to delay these events after Baker signed a bill into law in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. The law allows cities and towns to postpone their 2020 municipal elections to a date on or before June 30

The 4 p.m. selectmen's meeting will be hosted by Webex and will be live streamed on Danvers Community Access Television and YouTube. The town has also created an email address, publiccomments@danversma.gov, so viewers can submit comments, though there are no public hearings scheduled for Monday's meeting.

"The delay of the election and the delay of the town meeting are the big actions," Town Manager Steve Bartha said.

There are other issues the town needs the state legislature to address, Bartha said, such as an extension of the deadline in the Danvers Town Manager Act that requires selectmen to transmit a copy of the town budget by April 1 along with selectmen's recommendations to the Finance Committee.

The town is looking for more time to set its budget. The board had to cancel an all-day March 14 budget hearing due to the pandemic and the need to limit crowd sizes.

According to the agenda, what action the board takes at the meeting depends on what the legislature does, including sending the budget to the Finance Committee subject to revisions or delaying the submission until May 1 or some another date.

The town, along with others, may get legislative relief to extend the deadline for property tax exemptions and deferrals, and to waive the interest and or penalties for late payments of taxes and fees. Fourth-quarter tax bills are normally due May 1.

Bartha said a bill passed the House on Friday, and it may be taken by the Senate Monday morning.

The issue with the town's budget has to do with the fact it was crafted before the pandemic shut down most businesses and activity in town. It rested on certain assumptions about revenue from meals and hotel room taxes, permitting, motor vehicle excise taxes and the like. Investment income is also down with the plunge in the stock market.

The bill would also address the issue of permits not being "automatically granted, approved, or denied because a local permitting authority does not act within a time period required by law," according to a letter Baker sent to the House on March 24. 

Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2534, by email at eforman@salemnews.com or on Twitter at @TannerSalemNews. Find us at 300 Rosewood Drive, Suite 107, Danvers, Mass.

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