A lean budget, a short spending list and a relatively slim warrant await Chilmark voters at the annual meeting on Monday night.
Moderator Everett H. Poole will once again take up the gavel before voters take on a 27-article warrant. The meeting begins at 7:30 p.m. at the Chilmark Community Center.
Chilmark voters will also go to the polls next week. The annual town election is Wednesday, with polls at the Chilmark Community Center open from noon to 8 p.m. Only one race for various town committees is contested, a two-way race for the planning board between Janet Weidner and Michael Halbreich. Selectman Warren Doty is running for re-election unopposed.
Voters will find a trim operating budget waiting for them on town meeting floor. Up seven per cent to $5,803,947 from $5,379,734 last year, the budget increase reflects rises in health care costs, employee salaries, fuel prices, public safety expenses and the payment of town debt. Most departmental costs were level funded.
In fact, the majority of the budget increase can be tracked to debt service associated with recent capital projects. The town is requesting a $218,000 increase from last year to pay interest and principal for several projects and land acquisitions, including repairs at the Chilmark School, the remodeling of the town hall and the capping of the town landfill.
"If you take into account the bond issues, it is a very responsible budget," said Mr. Doty, who is chairman of the board. "The actual cost of town government is under control, and that is very good," he added.
Also reflected in the budget, Chilmark will pay a higher assessment to the Martha's Vineyard Commission this year, up over $10,000 from last year. Waste collection and disposal costs also rose $26,000, due to the higher cost of sending refuse to the waste processing plant in Rochester, and a new paramedic training course offered to Tri-Town Emergency Medical Technicians bumped ambulance service costs up $28,000.
Education costs, however, are down. While the assessment from the Martha's Vineyard Regional High School District rose $52,725, or 14 per cent from last year, the Up-Island Regional School District assessment fell $90,070, or six per cent. That drop lowered the town's total educational expenses from $2,056,941 to $2,020,169, or two per cent.
"It's a very lean budget," town account Thomas Wilson agreed. "They really looked at their expenses in detail."
In addition to the operating budget, voters will take up 21 spending requests. Unlike previous years, there are no large ticket items, and there are no capital projects on this warrant. In fact, most of the spending requests fall between the $5,000 to $30,000 range, and the town will not have to borrow money to pay for any of the articles.
The requests include $25,000 to dredge Menemsha harbor, $14,000 to buy and install emergency generators in town buildings, $10,000 to replace the furnaces at the two fire stations, and $9,000 to upgrade the police department's computer system. The only vehicle the town wants to buy this spring is an all-terrain vehicle for the fire department, with a price tag of $8,200.
There is also a request for $3,000 to create a memorial for veterans of foreign wars from World War II through the first Gulf War, to be placed in front of the town hall.
Voters will also consider endorsing an Islandwide two-year pilot program for the Vineyard Transit Authority that will extend route service and fund year-round transportation for the Senior Day program. The assessment will cost the town anywhere from $38,250 to $62,730 depending on state reimbursements.
Several articles on the warrant simply request the transfer of previously appropriated funds from one account to another. The town will ask voters to transfer over $100,000 from the general stabilization fund to a new fire department stabilization fund to pay for the future replacement of aging equipment.
As one of the two towns currently receiving funding generated through the Community Preservation Act, Chilmark will also decide how and where to spend that money. At a public hearing during the selectmen's regular meeting on Tuesday night, the community preservation committee discussed its plan to disperse $108,000 in funds across four areas. The committee wants to spend $55,000 to fund the town's rental conversion program; $13,000 to preserve scenic vistas; $17,000 to restore historic stone walls leading into the town center and $23,000 to combat the infestation of phragmites in Chilmark Pond. All four items will be presented as one spending request.
There are two nonspending articles on the warrant. Chilmark voters will decide whether to adopt a nonbinding resolution to make Martha's Vineyard a renewable energy island as well as a nonbinding resolution to create an Islandwide housing bank. The measure has been approved on town meeting floor and at the ballot box in four other towns. Aquinnah will vote on it in May.
Chilmark voters will not, however, make any decisions regarding the housing issue closest to them: the future of Middle Line Road. Originally slated for a discussion and vote on town meeting floor on Monday, the board of selectmen decided instead to delay a vote on the town's first housing venture until June, saying questions remained regarding funding and final design for the project.
At their meeting on Tuesday, the board set Monday, June 13 as the date for a special town meeting to take up the Middle Line project.