50 Years Ago

From the Vineyard Gazette editions of February, 1958:

In a most orderly and well conducted town meeting on Tuesday night, Tisbury voters disposed of an annual warrant containing thirty-nine articles, appropriating a budget of $450,544.08, and completing the whole annual business in three hours. The assemblage, totaling no more than one-third of the town’s registered voters, the estimate falling somewhat short of 300, held to the line with regard to the recommendations of the town finance committee, rejecting the proposal to purchase additional land for another fire station. It did vote to purchase a fully equipped police cruiser of the station wagon type, equipped with ambulance facilities, radio and other necessary equipment, the whole to cost $3,600. Yet even conservative as the voters were, and it could not be charged that unnecessary spending was favored, an eight-dollar boost in the tax rate is anticipated, bringing it up to $55 per thousand, and this without reckoning possible payment of the town’s share of the Steamship Authority deficit.

A total budget of $364,121.30, to be raised by taxation, was voted on Wednesday night in Oak Bluffs, the principal departmental budget being as follows: general government, $21,550; police department, $13,775; fire department, $11,537.50, health department, $20,220; for the highway department for general maintenance, $42,675; public welfare, $82,850, including $68,000 for old age assistance; school department, $97,392.50; library $4,110; recreation, $6,400; cemetery department, $2,075; water department, which budget is appropriated from departmental revenue, $52,456.25; Regional school apportionment, $23,811.46; and interest and maturing indebtedness, $27,233,25. A rise of possibly twelve dollars in the tax rate is anticipated bringing the figure to $56 on a thousand for the ensuring year.

A tax rate of about $51 is foreseen as a result of the action of the annual Edgaratown meeting on Tuesday evening. The 1957 rate was $42. The sharp increase in state assessments and county tax is partially responsible. The approximate figure of $51 does not take into account of any assessments for the deficit of the Steamship Authority. Little discussion marked the meeting, which was concluded in an hour and a half, almost breakneck speed compared with the pace of many annual town meetings in the past. The principal departure from the recommendations of the finance committee was voting of $7,350 for resurfacing part of the herring creek road. A requested expenditure of $7,500 for a Trapp’s Pond opening, opposed by the finance committee, was voted down.

A tax conscious West Tisbury voted down a new fire truck and the acquisition of pond frontage at its annual town meeting last night. The most frequently heard argument in the two and a half hour long meeting was, “It’s a good idea, but can we afford it?” With this sentiment, the new fire truck was lost, although the ballot vote was favorable 56 for to 41 against. The article required a two-thirds vote, since it involved borrowing money for longer than a year. The defeat of the pond shore acquisition was influenced by an offer by Kenneth Jones to let the town use some of his land on the pond shore. The tax rate, while it could not be accurately estimated, was guessed at in the neighborhood of $40, even with the rejection of the fire truck and pond property. This was due to increased school costs, state and county expenses, with school expenses alone up some $8,000.

The town of Chilmark became the owner of the Chilmark Community Center building Monday night when the voters went overwhelmingly to purchase the structure and land from the Chilmark Community Fund Inc. for $18,000. The purchase was the largest item of business in the one and a half hour annual meeting. In the process, they voted to accept the recommended expenditures of the board of selectmen, totaling $47,526.84; they voted to spend $12,000 for Chapter 90 roadwork; to appropriate an extra $500 for making improvements and for landscaping the town cemetery at Abel’s Hill; $4,000 for the maintenance of the fire department and its equipment; and they voted to appropriate $1,500 for improving the small boat landing at Hariph’s Creek Bridge. In the matter of the regional school district assessment, it was voted to pay at the moment only the amount certified before Dec. 31, 1957, $4,338.8.

3/13/1958: With little debate, Gay Head voted a budget that will total somewhat in excess of sixty thousand dollars, cleaning up the warrant of twenty-two articles in four hours flat, including close to half an hour for a coffee break at noon. This budget figure does not include $13,000 for a fire house, which is to be financed by a bond issue. Article 14 dealt with the three referendum questions relating to the Steamship Authority deficit, to the repeal of the present law and ending of the present Authority, and third, the setting up of a new Island controlled Authority. In line with all the other Vineyard towns, Gay Head voted overwhelmingly in favor of the referendum questions concerning the Steamship Authority.

Compiled by Eulalie Reagan