The annual town meeting in Oak Bluffs this week was at times testy and decidedly prolonged — so much so that two nights and seven hours of spirited debate were not nearly enough, forcing the meeting to spill into next week.

After a grueling second night that focused almost entirely on the town budget and finances, voters agreed to adjourn until Monday at 7 p.m. at the Oak Bluffs School.

The special town meeting on Tuesday got off to an awkward start when moderator David Richardson fumbled the words to the Pledge of Allegiance, setting off a barrage of grumbling and snickering that would be prevalent throughout the two-day affair. A total 335 voters attended on the first night.

Unlike previous years, there were no clearly controversial issues, although it became evident early on that voters were deeply concerned with the town budget, which totals $22.5 million and represents a 7.5 per cent increase over last year. An increase in expenses coupled with slowing growth in the tax rolls forced town leaders this year to present voters with overrides of Proposition 2 1/2, the state law which limits the annual increase in a community’s tax levy to 2.5 per cent.

When voters faced the first of three overrides, an article calling for the town to set aside $250,000 to pay the first installment of a 30-year plan to account for all of the town employee’s post-retirement benefits, the first of many heated debates ensued.

Town administrator Michael Dutton said the town’s total unfunded liability is $7.1 million for health benefits, adding that an Islandwide actuarial study recommended the town set aside a total of $600,000 this year. Mr. Dutton said the town normally goes with a pay-as-you-go approach to post retirement benefits, but town officials decided to start setting aside money in a separate stabilization fund to meet a new accounting standard called GASBY 45, or run the risk of damaging its bond rating.

But after learning there was no mandate requiring the town to set aside those funds, some voters were skeptical. “A lot of us are having a hard time paying our heating bills right now,” said one woman who did not identify herself. “If the current system is working we should keep it going.”

Longtime political figure and former selectman Linda Marinelli agreed. “I don’t want to save any money for the future unless we have to, God only knows where any of us will be 30 years from now,” she said.

Several selectmen said putting money into the stabilization fund would help keep the promise that the town made to employees when they retired. “These employees took low paying jobs years ago, and we told them we would take care of their health benefits . . . we can’t just go back on our word,” said selectman Roger Wey.

The override failed when it fell short of the required two-thirds vote.

Voters would continue to vigorously debate spending items over both evenings, although the GASBY 45 override article was the only spending item that was defeated. Two other override articles, one for $236,119 for the town elementary school and another for $157,294 for the town’s share of the regional high school, will be voted on when the meeting resumes on Monday.

Another article that sparked debate was a compensation and classification study approved by voters at a special town meeting in December. The study, which found that several employees have been underpaid for years compared to other towns of equal size and populations, called for new pay schedules for nonunion employees.

Voters argued over a plan to implement the study and allocate $80,000 to cover the pay increases.

“We now have people routinely making $60,000, $70,000, even $80,000, and that’s a lot for a small town like Oak Bluffs,” Mrs. Marinelli said. “How do we know we won’t be back here in a few years with a whole new [classification and compensation] study?”

The article was overwhelmingly approved.

Perhaps the biggest debate of the special town meeting, which took up a majority of the first evening, was a request to rescind $200,000 in Community Preservation Act funds approved at town meeting last year to renovate and expand the Little League park at Veira Park.

Vineyard Little League unveiled new plans for a facility called Penn Park, adjacent to the Oak Bluffs wastewater plant, which would be a townwide recreational facility with baseball diamonds, a playground basketball courts and football field. The group has already received approval from the town community preservation committee to shift the preservation act funds to the town-owned Leonardo property off Pennsylvania avenue.

Voters approved the purchase of the Leonardo property at a special town meeting last year to be used for future expansion of the town wastewater plant. Wastewater superintendent Joe Alosso said there was enough room on the property for both a recreational facility and future expansion of the plant.

Finance committee member Bill McGrath said he worried simply moving the funds from the Veira property to the Leonardo property was a rush to judgment.

“I worry this may be a knee jerk reaction. We have so many needs in this town, including off-site parking and wind [energy] generation, there may be a number of other things this property is better suited for. We just need more time to consider these other options,” he said.

Charlie Minor proposed an amendment that would simply rescind the money and not reallocate it to the Leonardo property. But the amendment was soundly defeated and the main motion to shift the funds passed by a wide margin.

Voters finished with the special town meeting soon after and dug into the annual town meeting warrant, but as the hour approached 10:30 p.m., they agreed to adjourn for the night.

When the meeting reconvened on Wednesday and voters took up next year’s operating budget, Mr. Richardson paused to remark, “I had to gulp a little when I saw the $24 million figure . . . this may take awhile.” The remark was the last bit of levity for the night.

Massasoit avenue resident Brian Hughes threw voters a curve ball when he introduced an amendment that would place both school overrides back into the budget. The amendment would then require each town department — including the Oak Bluffs School — to reduce their respective budgets by 1.9 per cent, negating the need for the school overrides.

The town moderator and selectmen huddled to decide if this was permissible. Mr. Richardson then called for a brief recess and members of the finance committee, town administrator, selectmen, finance director and town counsel gathered around a table to discuss the amendment.

The meeting reconvened five minutes later; Mr. Richardson said he would allow the amendment and the debate was on.

After 90 minutes of charged debate, town officials urged voters not to endorse the plan because it would create financial problems in the future.

“This is not carefully thought out,” said selectman Gregory Coogan. “If we do this we are going to wake up tomorrow with a hangover and say to ourselves, ‘What were we thinking?’”

The amendment was defeated.

Then voters began to comb through the operating budget for next year. It took over 30 minutes for voters just to decide what line items they wanted to put aside for later debate, which included just about everything — from salaries to capital expenditures to paper supplies. One voter even asked for further explanation of a line that totaled zero.

In the end all the line items were approved.

And then suddenly it was 10:30 p.m. and one voter pressed Mr. Richardson to ask if voters were ready to go home.

The answer was a resounding yes.