Voters in West Tisbury approved a $16.9 million budget at their annual town meeting, setting the stage for the town’s first tax override in 10 years. The next step for the budget was an override question at the town election on Thursday.

The West Tisbury School parking lot was completely full Tuesday night, with cars parked along Old County Road. The meeting drew 281 voters and lasted more than four hours. At around 11:25 p.m. the crowd was thinning and the meeting was adjourned until Wednesday. But only about 100 voters, 25 short of a quorum, returned for the remaining seven articles and the meeting was rescheduled. It will reconvene Tuesday, April 28 at 7 p.m.

All but one of the 41 articles taken up this week passed, with five amended on the floor.

It was the first town meeting in 23 years without moderator Patrick Gregory, a well-known Island teacher and businessman, who died last year. In his final appearance as West Tisbury poet laureate, Justen Ahren opened the meeting with a sonnet dedicated to Mr. Gregory, and Dan Waters, who took over as moderator this year, offered a moment of remembrance.

John Stanwood stands up for local workers. — Peter Simon

“Pat stood for a lot of things — kindness and fairness, grace under pressure,” Mr. Waters said. He also read the names of other town residents who died in the last year, including Brianna Combra, who was killed in an automobile accident two days earlier.

The first vote of the evening was to dedicate the lobby of the West Tisbury Library to Mr. Gregory.

Over the next four hours, often with passionate commentary, voters approved spending for several capital projects, including the purchase of a new building for the Center for Living, and $50,000 for an engineering study for a new or renovated highway department building on Old Courthouse Road. They also rejected a proposal to fund a $3.9 million high school administration building, a project many years in the making.

Topping the warrant was the town budget, which the finance committee had voted not to recommend. The committee’s opposition hinged mostly on a $100,000 discrepancy in spending for the up-Island regional school district, which includes West Tisbury, Chilmark and Aquinnah. But committee members also cited continued increases in school spending, retirement benefit obligations and the overall number of capital projects on the warrant.

Town accountant Bruce Stone noted that the proposed budget was about $1 million higher than last year and would raise the tax levy by 9.6 per cent. Of the three member towns, West Tisbury’s portion of the school district assessment was about 68 per cent, due in part to an additional 12 students this year.

Up-Island school committee chairman Michael Marcus apologized to the finance committee for not offering more information during the review process. “It bore greater explanation than my assumption that our budget would be a no brainer,” he said. He moved to reduce the district budget by $68,440.

Among the costs he said were non-negotiable, however, were $389,000 needed to renovate eight bathrooms to comply with town and state building codes, and $200,000 that had already been committed to other building concerns.

He singled out two factors that enabled the reduction: a commitment by police chief Dan Rossi to provide a part-time school resource officer free of charge, and selectman Skipper Manter’s efforts to lower school transportation costs by transferring bus ownership and management to the high school.

First year moderator Dan Waters presided over the town meeting. — Peter Simon

Finance committee chairman Katherine Triantafillou welcomed the reduction, but thought it should be more. The amendment passed by all but one vote, however, and the town budget easily gained majority support.

The finance committee had recommended against funding the final stage of a Mill Brook watershed study, which has appeared at each of the last few town meetings. Selectman and watershed planning committee co-chairman Cynthia Mitchell amended that request from $25,000 to $6,600. She cited an extra $5,000 contribution and the willingness of community volunteers as helping to enable the reduction. The article passed with little opposition.

The request for a new high school administration building was also amended on the floor, to include a $3.9 million spending cap, but finance committee members were less amenable to that project, arguing that it had arrived too late in the budget process and that crucial details had been lacking.

“This came before us with no number whatsoever,” Ms. Triantafillou said.

“I’m astounded we were not presented with more detail and more facts,” said Doug Ruskin. “If it’s so darn important, it should have been in front of us two months ago when we were talking about it.”

Voters have addressed the building project three times before, approving a total of about $185,000. Vineyard schools superintendent Dr. James H. Weiss said the current administration building, formerly a Catholic church, is riddled with problems, including a lack of handicapped access, weak floors, and a faulty HVAC system.

Linda Hughes multitasks. — Peter Simon

Diana DeBlase was among those who opposed the article. “I hate to see $3.9 million spent on a brand new building when the buildings that our kids are going to school in every day have not been improved,” she said.

All-Island school committee member Robert Lionette credited Mr. Manter, a longtime member of the high school committee, with pushing down the cost from $6 million to $3.9 million. “Getting to this number has been difficult and has been time consuming,” he said. He added that the lack of detail earlier on was not an attempt to avoid transparency. “It was purely the amount of work required to get to the point we are presently,” he said.

The article required the approval of all six towns, Mr. Lionette said Wednesday. He added that the options were still unclear, but he believed West Tisbury could potentially call a special town meeting to revisit the article. But town counsel Ronald H. Rappaport said Tuesday there is only a 60-day window to approve the spending.

Perhaps the most passionate debate of the evening surrounded the wording of an article from the 2014 town meeting that appropriated $75,000 in community preservation funds to replace the West Tisbury cemetery fence. The new article asked instead to “substantially restore” the fence. Selectman Richard Knabel explained that the idea was to replace the stretch of picket fence along State Road, and to repair the rest as money would allow.

But several people questioned the cost and necessity of the project.

“We don’t need a perfect fence,” said Andrew Dickerman. “This is not Water street in Edgartown, it’s West Tis.” He added that the fields around the cemetery give the town its own character and that other large cemeteries on the Island were without fences. “It’s pretty the way it is, a little dilapidated,” he said.

Mr. Knabel said the cemetery is within the town’s historic district and removing the fence would require approval from the historic district commission. “What we are trying to do is thread the needle between different constituencies here,” he said. In the end, the original 2014 article was rescinded altogether, sending the $75,000 back to the community preservation committee.

Unfinished business still to come before voters on April 28 includes a request to designate four historic roads as special ways, and a set of proposed amendments to the town’s accessory housing and zoning bylaws. Among the bylaw changes are an increase in the maximum size of accessory apartments, from 800 to 1,000 square feet, and the removal of language prohibiting detached bedrooms from being rented to visitors.

Before adjourning Wednesday due to the lack of quorum, Mr. Waters urged voters present to spread the word: the annual town meeting still has one more night to go.