There were no harsh cuts this year, and little of the tense, prolonged debate that has come to epitomize recent annual town meetings in Oak Bluffs. Instead, voters in the financially-strapped town worked quickly this week to pass a modest $24.1 million operating budget for the coming fiscal year and approve 24 articles that will restore some much-needed town services.

A total of 207 voters attended the back-to-back special and annual town meetings Tuesday night, held in the performing arts center of Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School.

Newly-appointed town administrator Robert Whritenour said the conservative budget was intended to chart a sustainable path for the town, which has struggled to cover shortfalls and slash spending as revenue steams have dwindled.

“This community has built structural revenue deficits over the last several years that have built a significant general fund deficit,” Mr. Whritenour said. In an hour-long presentation he stressed the need to moderate spending and lower revenue estimates to collectable amounts in the coming year. “I think we’re going to make our estimate for fiscal year 2012, plus a little more, and we’re going to keep that same estimate for fiscal year 2013 and we’re going to beat it,” he said. “We are going to keep those revenue estimates down . . . and that’s how we’re going to pull this town back into the black.”

Oak Bluffs currently has a general fund deficit of $434,553 and a free cash deficit of $888,046.

Though the $24.1 million budget marks only about a 1.13 per cent increase over last year’s budget, it restores several positions previously cut or left unfilled, including a reference librarian, an animal control officer, a town accountant and a cemetery maintenance worker. Many of those cuts and vacancies were always intended as temporary measurers, said Mr. Whritenour. Voters also approved a 1.5 per cent cost of living increase for many union town employees.

The seven-item special and 17-item annual town meeting warrants contained only a handful of other spending items, all of which were approved. They included the transfer of $143,000 to purchase new public safety equipment, and $281,250 for a transport ambulance, an upgrade of ambulance software, an emergency response intercept vehicle, replacements for outdated bullet-proof vests and a police lieutenant’s unmarked cruiser.

Voters also approved the use of $233,953 in Community Preservation Act funds for the preservation of the East Chop bluff and road, the restoration of stained glass windows at the United Methodist Church, the preservation and digitization of the Martha’s Vineyard Museum’s collection, and rental assistance for Dukes County Regional Housing Authority.

The most contentious article of the night concerned spending $38,300 to perform a water quality study on Upper Lagoon Pond. The findings of the study will be used to identify nitrogen loading in the ponds, with the hope of avoiding costly sewering solutions. The last-minute article was submitted by the selectmen, and received a 7 to 1 negative recommendation from the town finance and advisory committee due to lack of clarity about where the money would come from.

Immediately after the article was introduced Tuesday, selectman Walter Vail proposed amending the article so the money would be taken from a wastewater account, created last year using customer fees for the purpose of completing engineering studies. Mr. Whritenour gave the explanation. “Funds are sitting in that account, but the town and the wasterwater commission can’t move forward and do that engineering until they perform the analysis,” he said. “Basically, the funding has been appropriated to an account already for the purposes of doing the engineering, and this is data that will support that engineering.”

Wastewater commissioner Robert Iadicicco strenuously objected to the taking of wastewater funds, which he said the town had done on three previous occasions to the tune of a half million dollars. “We need an assurance that they’re going to repay us; they can’t just take money from 700 people,” Mr. Iadicicco said.

“I’d like to ask why we didn’t take it out of the stabilization?” he later pressed.

“Because we’ve taken too much,” said Mr. Vail.

“We’ve taken too much out of the wastewater!” Mr. Iadicicco countered.

After more debate, the amended article passed. Mr. Vail said the selectmen would include an article on next year’s town meeting warrant to repay the funds.

“The problem with this article is that it was late,” said Oak Bluffs voter Maura McGroarty. “We’ve done these things before and it’s what got us into trouble . . . I think that’s why there was so much discussion on this, because it wasn’t done properly.”

Voters also bogged down over calls to double fees on town bylaws for such infractions as skateboarding and throwing frisbees on Circuit avenue. The fees had not been raised in 10 years. Though the warrant article did not seek any changes to the laws themselves, voters harangued over semantics. “What’s the definition of profane or obscene language and who’s to decide that,” asked Alan Willens, who worried his grandchild might be arrested while talking on the street. Does this mean if I go to a friend’s house and only drink a half bottle of wine and bring it home I can be arrested? asked Judith Schubert.

After several more questions, a voter stood up. “We’re not voting on the verbiage of this, right? We’re just voting on the fines? So we could be here all night,” he said. The comment drew applause, and an abrupt end to the discussion. Voters ultimately agreed to raising fines and to extend restaurant operating hours from 12:30 to 1 a.m.

As the clock neared 10 p.m. voters raced toward the end of the warrant.

Moderator Jesse (Jack) Law 3rd introduced a nonbinding question about voter preference for a roundabout at the blinker light intersection, expected to dominate the evening’s debate.

“I’m going to allow 15 minutes for discussion. We’ve been discussing this for about 10 years,” said Mr. Law. “Anybody want to discuss this?” “No!” the crowd shouted. Despite a few objections, voters loudly voiced their approval of the project.

In the final article of the evening, voters agreed to petition Congress to overturn the controversial Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission ruling that allows for unlimited corporate campaign contributions.

As crowd members hurried for the exits, a few lingered behind to congratulate Mr. Law and Mr. Whritenour on their speedy handling of the meeting, which last year spanned three nights over the course of several weeks.

“Well done,” said one man to Mr. Law. “Three hours? I don’t know what to do with the rest of my week. I was expecting this to take two or three days.”