Tisbury voters will be asked to weigh in on the town’s first general override in more than 20 years as town meeting and election season begins next week. The annual and special town meetings begin at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, April 29, at the Tisbury School gymnasium. There are 35 articles on the annual town meeting warrant and 22 articles on the special town meeting warrant. Moderator Deborah Medders will preside.
Town elections take place Tuesday, May 13, at the Emergency Services Facility, 215 Spring Street, from noon to 8 p.m.
The main ballot question for voters is the override, which funds the approximately $1.1 million budget deficit for fiscal year 2015. Fiscal year 2015 begins July 1. The override must be approved by a majority of Tisbury voters to take effect.
The forthcoming deficit was first noted by town treasurer Tim McLean in November, when FY2015 financial planning began in earnest and departments began to submit budgets. In a phone conversation Wednesday Mr. McLean said that the deficit was not the result of a single department’s budget increasing, but rather a host of factors.
“It’s not just one thing,” Mr. McLean said. There have been budget increases across town departments, most notably the Tisbury School, the police department, the department of public works and the regional high school. The overall FY2015 operating budget for Tisbury has increased 7.9 per cent over last year’s, for a total of $23,186,156. Last year saw an increase of 3 per cent.
In an earlier interview, Mr. McLean said that as departments worked to adhere to Proposition 2 ½ guidelines, which limit property tax increases to 2.5 per cent annually, many were left underfunded. The last time a general override was needed was in 1987.
The override, if approved, will result in a permanent tax rate increase in town, but will keep the budget well-funded in the future, Mr. McLean said. The current tax rate is $8.46 per $1,000 of property valuation.
The override totals $1,296,084, with approximately $1.11 million going to balance the budget. An additional $185,000 will go into capital stabilization funds for the fire, ambulance and public works departments.
“We started those stabilization funds last year,” Mr. McLean said Wednesday. “The hope was to put it in every year. Typically we borrowed for it and then paid after the fact. We’re trying to be a little more proactive, to not incur the interest.”
For the annual warrant, voters will be asked to borrow $125,000 to fund an automated parking fee system at the Park and Ride lot, an initiative that has been developed by town administrator John (Jay) Grande throughout the past year. Mr. Grande said the funding would pay for the construction and implementation of a new pay-as-you-go system, featuring a gated kiosk. The pay-as-you-go would allow for better management of the several fee structures, which vary depending on length of stay and type of vehicle. The lot is currently monitored by the police department.
“It does take away vital police functions from other activities that are needed,” Mr. Grande said. “This system would free up those personnel resources.”
Funding improvements to other town parking facilities are also up for consideration — $15,000 to upgrade the newest Tisbury parking facility, at the site of the old fire station on Beach street, and $60,000 towards amenities such as parking berms and fencing at a lot across the street from the Tisbury school, at the site of the former department of public works building. Funding for building the lot itself was approved at town meeting in April 2012.
Voters will weigh in on $167,300 of capital appropriations from the unreserved fund, including $40,000 to replace floor coverings and paint the interior of the town library, $35,000 to purchase and install a new security system at the Tisbury School, and $28,000 to replace a town-owned vehicle kept in Woods Hole. The car is used by town staff and personnel for travel to off-Island conferences and business meetings. The current car, a hybrid Prius, has been in use for a decade. The warrant also includes $37,000 in capital appropriations from the waterways fund. The Department of Public Works’ capital borrowing requests $350,000 and includes the purchase of a street sweeper, a four-wheel drive pickup truck, a landscape trailer, a wood chipper and a snow pusher attachment. The Tisbury water commissioners will be funding construction of a new office and garage facility across the street from the water works’ current location on West Spring street. The current building will be turned over to the selectmen, said Paul Wohler, the water superintendent. The new facility, a prefabricated steel building, is funded by a one million dollar borrowing article. The borrowing is done against the water department’s own revenues and does not come from taxes.
“We’re totally rate supported,” Mr. Wohler said. He said the facility is part of the department’s 20-year capital improvement plan.
Among the water department’s proposed capital expenditures for this year, which total $690,000 on the warrant, is the inclusion of Lagoon Pond Road in the town water system.
“There’s a dead end at Maciel Marine. We’re going to loop it over to Skiff [avenue],” Mr. Wohler said. “That will dramatically improve fire protection for not only that area but the Martha’s Vineyard Museum.”
The Community Preservation Committee has put forth 18 funding requests totaling $607,500. The requests include funding for both town and regional projects, including $75,000 to restore the Grace Church bell tower, $50,000 towards the relocation of the Gay Head Light, and $50,000 to restore the roof and chimneys of the Martha’s Vineyard Museum. A total of $28,000 will go towards shelving and archiving historic town hall records, and $17,000 towards repairs to the Katharine Cornell Building, including reactivating the building’s steeple bell, refurbishing the theatre doors and securing the town seal.
The town received $237,135 in ferry embarkation fees in FY2014. The bulk of the fees will be dispersed to the police department, fire department, harbor department and ambulance department, with $50,000 going towards the dredge committee stabilization fund.
The special town meeting features a warrant full of zoning bylaw amendments.
One bylaw change adds a definition for a medical marijuana facility, a response to the recent legalization of medical marijuana in the Commonwealth.
“It’s not absolutely necessary that the town adopts a bylaw regarding it, but without a bylaw there would be no control,” planning board cochair Tony Peak said. He said Tisbury’s definition was modeled on templates provided by state agencies.
Another change unifies three separate definitions of a site review planning board to create a consistent definition. Most of the other bylaw changes are clarifications of semantics and language, Mr. Peak said.
Voters will also weigh in on a fertilizer regulation submitted by the town boards of health that appears on all town warrants. The article would create an Island-wide district of critical planning concern regarding fertilizer use. The special warrant also features a change to the town bylaws — distinct from the zoning bylaws — regarding a noise regulation adopted in 1967. The fine for noise pollution, defined as noise audible 150 feet from its source, would increase from $50 to $100 for a first offense.