The cost of doing business is going up in Aquinnah this year, where voters will face a sizeable increase in the annual town operating budget at their annual town meeting Tuesday night, followed by a large general override question at the annual town election the next day. Aquinnah is the only town on the Island to seek a Proposition 2 1/2 general override this year.
“It’s a reality that it has to happen — costs are going up for all of us,” selectman Jim Newman said this week.
Voters will gather at the old town hall at 6:45 p.m. on Tuesday for an eight-article special town meeting, followed by the annual town meeting at 7 p.m. Moderator Michael Hebert will preside. There are 23 articles on the annual warrant.
The $3.4 million town budget is up nearly $300,000, or nine per cent over last year. The increase can be tracked largely to higher educational costs, wage increases for town employees and legal expenses.
At the town election Wednesday voters will be asked to approve a $175,000 general override. Mr. Newman said the override was unavoidable if the town is going to make ends meet this year.
“We have been so careful and fixed costs have risen eight per cent; we just couldn’t do it any other way,” he said. “We’re pretty bare bones as it is. I don’t think you’d find very much excess in that budget.”
The budget includes a requested 16 per cent salary increase for town administrator Adam Wilson. The increase from $63,537 to $75,835 is meant to bring his salary in line with the town classification plan. An increase is also planned for the fire chief’s salary (from $5,000 to $10,000), along with an upward salary adjustment for the town accountant from $57,300 to $63,754, due to increased hours.
The town finance advisory board is requesting a three per cent cost of living increase for all town employees. The town has not had a wage adjustment in five years.
The town’s legal expenses are increasing from $37,000 to $60,000, reflecting actual costs, Mr. Wilson said this week. Medicare and Social Security costs are also up.
Education spending in Aquinnah will total $915,890 this year, up $100,500 over last year. The town’s up-Island Regional School District budget assessment will go from $563,383 to $739,637, an increase of 33 per cent due to increased enrollment. The regional high school assessment is down from $252,011 last year to $176,253.
The Tri-Town Ambulance Service budget is increasing to accommodate added staff and training; as a result Aquinnah assessment will go from $134,370 to $172,218.
The budget also includes funding for a new administrative assistant for the planning board, conservation commission and zoning board of appeals.
First up will be the special town meeting warrant, which includes a request to transfer $50,400 from the stabilization fund for work at the town landfill for storm water drainage and erosion control. The work is required by the state Department of Environmental Protection.
Voters will also be asked to amend the town zoning bylaw to allow a simplified review and permitting process for small building projects such as sheds and outdoor showers.
The annual town meeting warrant includes a request for $25,000 for four new Scott Air Packs and four air cylinders for the fire department. The article has a corresponding ballot question to exempt the spending from the provisions of Proposition 2 1/2.
Other spending items include requests for $39,000 for a police cruiser and $15,000 for a tax title associate to assist in tax taking.
Voters will be asked to put $50,000 in the Dukes County Other Post-Employment Benefit trust to cover future post-retirement benefits for town employees. They also will be asked to put $150,000 in community preservation funds toward ongoing repairs to the Gay Head Light, restoration of the old Aquinnah library, windows for the Vanderhoop Homestead, participation in the Martha’s Vineyard Museum and a planned restoration project for the Menemsha Pond bulkhead.
A proposed new bylaw would require taxi drivers, managers of beer and wine licenses, peddling and ice cream truck vendors to be subject to a criminal background check. If voters approve, Aquinnah will be the first town on the Island to adopt the bylaw, which is part of a statewide initiative.
In the town election Wednesday there are eight questions on the ballot. In addition to the general override question for the town budget, voters will also be asked to exclude from the provisions of Proposition 2 1/2 the borrowing costs for money spent on the West Tisbury School building project last year, new school buses for the regional high school and construction of the Chilmark School.
Aquinnah will also be the last town to vote on a nonbinding question on whether the roundabout should be built at the blinker intersection in Oak Bluffs. Voters in Chilmark, Edgartown, West Tisbury and Vineyard Haven all came out overwhelmingly against the roundabout in their elections. Oak Bluffs did not put the question on the ballot; voters in that town supported the roundabout on the town meeting floor.
There are no contests for elected office. Polls will be open from noon to 7 p.m. at the Aquinnah town hall.