Property tax bills are going up in West Tisbury and so is spending this year, with the town preparing to ask voters to exceed the state tax cap for the first time in a decade.

Town accountant Bruce Stone told the town selectmen last week that current fund requests exceed the annual levy limit set by Proposition 2 1/2.

“If everything gets approved, we could be $450,000 to $500,000 over the maximum allowable tax levy,” he said. “It’s the first time we have been in this situation in nine or ten years.”

Voters will authorize next year’s spending at the annual town meeting in April that may include an override and or a combination of capital and debt exclusion questions.

Selectmen began talks about ways to close the budget gap last week; more discussion is expected at their regular meeting Wednesday.

To close the shortfall, the town can vote to exclude major projects from the levy limit. For example, voters could vote to exclude ongoing debt service from a building project at the school from the levy limit or to exclude one-time capital projects like the purchase of a new fire truck.

“You can add it to the tax levy for that one year only, but it does not permanently increase the levy limit,” Mr. Stone said of the latter option.

Alternatively, selectmen could ask for an override, whether general or specific to a town department or project.

All options require a ballot vote and a vote at town meeting. There is also another solution: cut spending, board chairman Jeffrey (Skipper) Manter 3rd said.

As currently proposed, the town’s budget is $17 million for fiscal year 2016, an increase of 6.7 per cent over the current year.

The largest jump is school spending, which is up nearly $1.3 million over the current year.

The West Tisbury School added 16 more students this year, for a total enrollment of 290, but selectmen said the increases are accelerating independent of enrollment numbers.

“That’s the thing that has always gotten my attention, was that no matter what the enrollment did, the school budgets went up and up,” said selectman Richard Knabel.

Mr. Manter, who also serves as a member of the up-Island school board, said there was no reason to believe increases would not continue in the future.

“They spend money without a fiscal conscience,” Mr. Manter said of his school district which includes West Tisbury and Chilmark. He said the other elementary schools don’t come close to comparable increases.

Mr. Stone said the increases are attributed to growing special education needs and contractual obligations.

Finance leaders warned last year that school spending would soon outstrip the town’s resources under Proposition 2 1/2.

While they were able to pay school bills with excess levy capacity last year, this year that capacity is reduced.

Mr. Stone said he would apply the remaining $600,000 in free cash reserves to the tax rate.

Other substantial increases are proposed for the library and police department budgets.

Also at the meeting, the selectmen decided to keep a single tax rate for the town. Pending Department of Revenue approval, the tax rate will increase from $5.41 per $1,000 of valuation to $5.70. This translates to an increase of $248 for an average property valued at $960,563.

The town has not been told when the state will approve the valuations.

In other business, an environmental consulting firm has been hired to coordinate a yearlong study of the Mill Brook watershed.

The ESS Group has been awarded a $30,000 contract to manage data collection on the 3,700-acre freshwater river system in West Tisbury.

ESS, the sole bidder, will produce a report in one year, members of the Mill Brook watershed management committee told selectmen.

The study has a broad scope, which includes a review of existing data, water quality sampling at several points throughout the watershed, measurement of water flow and an examination of water diversion, inputs and use, and identifying land uses negatively affecting the water quality of the Mill Brook.

“What we are doing at this stage is collecting the data that will be used to develop a watershed management plan,” said committee member Selena Roman.

The committee expects to ask the town for additional funds for further work at the April town meeting.

If all goes according to plan, a draft watershed management plan will be presented to voters at the 2016 annual town meeting.