Increased expenses for staffing, legal bills and retirement benefits have all led to an increase in the Martha’s Vineyard Commission’s budget for the coming fiscal year.
At a meeting Thursday night the commission approved a $1.45 million budget for FY 2015, an increase of nearly 10 per cent over last year.
Commission treasurer Brian Smith said the budget represents an overall operating increase of 4.2 per cent, or $55,000. The increase can be attributed to several factors, Mr. Smith said, including a new, more experienced traffic planner “who came with a higher price” and an increase to the pension plan, which the commission has no control over.
The commission has 10 staff members; total spending on salaries next year is $771,266. Staff members will receive a 2.13 per cent cost of living increase and an average 2.4 per cent merit increase.
The budget also calls for an additional $75,000 to be added to the general reserve fund, which took a hit last year due to unexpectedly high legal fees. When the reserve fund gets low, commission policy calls for the replenishment of the fund during the next fiscal year, Mr. Smith said.
Most of the commission’s funding — just over $1 million this year — comes through mandatory assessments collected from Vineyard towns and Gosnold using a formula based on property valuations. A budget explanation provided by the commission said a homeowner with a house assessed at $500,000 will pay $26.94 for fiscal year 2015. This is about a three dollar increase from fiscal year 2014.
The commission voted 13-1 to approve the budget, with one abstention.