Voters in Aquinnah gather tonight for their annual town meeting, marking the end of the annual town meeting season on the Vineyard.
A 12 per cent operating budget hike for the coming year and funding for a variety of work associated with a project to relocate the historic Gay Head Light top the warrant for voters in the Island’s smallest town. The annual town election is Wednesday, with no contests on the ballot.
Annual and special town meetings begin tonight at 6:45 p.m. at the Aquinnah town hall. An 11-article special town meeting warrant will be followed by a 30-article annual town meeting warrant. Moderator Michael Hebert will preside. A quorum of 39 voters is required.
Voters will be asked to approve a $3.8 million budget, up $400,000 over last year. The increase can be largely tracked to the town’s assessment for the Up-Island Regional School district which is up 35 per cent this year due to increased enrollment. The high school assessment is also up slightly due to higher enrollment.
On the ballot Wednesday, voters will be asked to approve a $230,000 Proposition 2 1/2 override question to help pay for the added education costs.
Other spending increases in the budget include legal costs, up from $60,000 to $100,000, and payroll increases due to new positions that include a director of public works and two new part-time positions at the town library.
“We’re just trying to run ourselves as a better town,” town administrator Adam Wilson said last week.
The budget includes a 2.5 per cent cost of living adjustment for town employees.
Costs associated with the project to move the Gay Head will appear in series of articles on both the special and annual warrants. All told, voters will be asked to approve $75,000 on the lighthouse project this year, some of it from the town Community Preservation Act fund. A $30,000 geotechnical engineering study at the cliffs, $25,000 in emergency restoration work at the lighthouse, erosion study at the cliffs and digitizing historic lighthouse documents are all on the project list. Planning has begun to move the lighthouse sometime in the next two years due to severe erosion.
If voters agree, another $6,000 in CPA money will be spent to create access and parking for a new playground behind the town hall. About $14,000 has already been set aside from prior town meetings for the project.
A bylaw banning the public consumption of medical marijuana will come before voters as it has in other towns this spring, following the passage of a state ballot initiative last fall law legalizing medical marijuana. The bylaw is being proposed by the town police department. A similar bylaw was approved by voters in Tisbury and Oak Bluffs but voted down by Edgartown. West Tisbury voters will take up a public consumption bylaw and a proposed one-year moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries at a special town meeting next week.