Tisbury voters will consider a budget of almost $20 million, as part of a 44- article annual town meeting warrant on Tuesday.
The total is an increase of 7.6 per cent on last year. Education costs make up almost 40 per cent of the total, and the biggest single cost increase is the town’s contribution to the regional high school, up almost 10 per cent, largely due to the new school funding formula foisted on the Island by the state.
But the most controversial matter up for consideration at the April 1 meeting will likely not be a financial one. It will be the ballot, two weeks later on April 15, to decide an issue which has been hotly debated for the past three years — beer and wine sales at town restaurants.
Three other issues will be on the ballot besides beer and wine sales — a non-binding resolution which would call upon the U.S. Congress to vote against additional funds for the Iraq war, and two Proposition 2 1/2 items, one relating to the $1.5 million cost of designing and building a wastewater pumping station at the regional high school, and one relating to the $590,000 cost of the rebuilding of Veterans’ Memorial Park.
The town meeting is scheduled to begin next Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. at the Tisbury School.
A breakdown of the budget costs and the increases in the voters’ guide prepared by a member of the finance and advisory committee, Jon Snyder, shows the cost of running the Tisbury School will cost just over $4.75 million in 2009, an increase of 6.9 per cent over last year.
The other major expenditure areas, and the increases over last year, are: the regional high school, about $3.1 million, up 9.8 per cent; police, fire and ambulance, $1.8 million, up 7.7 per cent; public works, $1.16 million, up 10.2 per cent; insurance, $2.9 million, up 5.4 per cent; debt and interest, $1.2 million, 8.1 per cent, and: “everything else,” $4.88 million, up 7.5 per cent.
As to individual warrant items, one indicator of where the likely points of contention will be is to be found in the assessments made by the finance committee, in which some or all committee members had reservations about particular expenditures.
The plan to rebuild Veterans’ Memorial Park passed the finance committee by an 8-1 margin, but may split the meeting by a greater margin.
The park is in poor repair, poorly drained and plagued by potholes. A variety of sports are played there, and the uneven field surface has caused a number of injuries, which have led to complaints and could ultimately lead to insurance claims and steeper premiums.
The committee’s decision was influenced by the prospect of legal costs of a serious mishap.
Among other items which could have a rough passage through town meeting, judging by the finance committee’s reaction to them, are a couple of capital appropriations. One is the spending of $70,000 proposed for painting and external repairs to the police station.
Voters balked at the cost last year. This year the committee recommends the work by a 7-2 margin even though a new building for the police and ambulance is envisioned in the new Tisbury plan. But it would remain a town asset, possibly housing retail space, which would make appearances even more important than now.
Still, town officials expect many at the meeting would happily let the maintenance slide for another year.
Parts of another article, relating to the funding of various community preservation projects, also split the members of finance committee and could also split the meeting.
The first of the items is a proposal that Sail Martha’s Vineyard receive $32,750 to build four “historic” flat-bottomed boats. The committee vote was against the item 5-3, with two abstentions.
The second is for almost $58,000 to continue repairs to the old (1887) Tashmoo Spring building. The committee voted 4-4-1 on the plan.
One small item which appears an almost certain non-starter, given the advisory committee’s unanimous reaction against it, was part of an article that deals with the expenditure of some $255,000 the town has received embarkation fees.
The harbor master sought $1,800 for the design – not for construction – of a deck on the upper level of the office at Owen Park, so he might survey happenings on the water. Committee members took the view that closed-circuit television cameras could do the same job at a fraction of the cost.
They also recommend against another article that would spend $10,000 on a long-term study of the town’s infrastructure needs, on the basis that the work already had been done comprehensively and for free, in a planning board study (which was presented to the special town meeting last Tuesday).
A proposal to take $15,000 from the town’s unreserved fund balance to restore various art and music programs at the high school, also split the committee. By a 5-3 margin they recommended against it.
And Dukes County seems unlikely to get the $10,000 or so it wants the town to contribute as its share of the county engineering program. The committee unanimously opposed to the idea.
But taxpayers will no doubt be pleased that the committee unanimously endorsed a proposal to transfer $1.1 million from the unreserved fund balance to reduce the tax rate.
Other articles endorsed by the committee would: provide for $30,406, the town’s share of administrative costs of the Dukes County Regional Housing Authority; allocate $100,000 for refuse and recycling for 2008 and $200,000 for 2009; and appropriate $50,000 for preparatory work to acquire a roadway easement from Holmes Hole Road to the landfill.
If the townspeople agree with finance committee members there will also be another $10,000 to hire, equip and train police, $8,500 toward a “drug containment” program, and an extra $50,000 for sick and vacation trust fund.
Other warrant articles propose transferring from the reserve fund $47,500 for off-Island ambulance transport operations and $20,000 to create a new permanent part-time position for a police traffic officer Not to mention the imaginatively named “sewer enterprise fund,” the estimated obligations and revenues of which both total $378,150.
It could be a long night next Tuesday.