Facing a budget shortfall, county leaders agreed this week to seek additional funding from Island voters at annual town meetings this spring to help balance a $1.74 million budget for the coming fiscal year.

The county advisory board, a group made up of town selectmen that has oversight over the county budget, voted Tuesday afternoon to request another $130,000 from the six Island towns. Higher town assessments and new administrative fees for health and human service are planned.

The shortfall is due to the loss of alarm fee revenue from the Island’s emergency communications center after the county sheriff decided to end the funding earlier this year.

“The loss from the alarm fees was a big hit,” county advisory board member and Edgartown selectman Arthur Smadbeck said Tuesday.

The bulk of expenses in the FY20 county budget are for salaries, maintaining the ailing Edgartown courthouse, beach patrol and regional emergency management services.

The advisory board agreed to use three avenues to make up the shortfall, beginning with warrant articles asking towns to increase the share they pay for seven regional health and human service programs. The programs are Vineyard Health Care Access, Healthy Aging MV, Dukes County Social Services, First Stop, CORE, the Center for Living and the Substance Abuse Prevention Program.

To raise an additional $58,000, a five per cent administrative fee will be tacked onto each program’s budget, county manager Martina Thornton said. The fee would cover the cost of the county distributing payments from Island towns to the programs, she said.

She said five per cent number is a common overhead fee charged by the state when administering grants.

“I just wanted a minimal administrative fee that would be a recognition of the work that we do here. I’m not trying to make money, I’m trying to balance the budget,” she said.

The advisory board also agreed to seek another $12,000 through a 2.5 per cent increase in assessments to Island towns. Ms. Thornton said the funding would be specified for Other Post Employment Benefits (OPED) for county employees, previously paid for with alarm fee funding. Town assessments are calculated using a formula based on property valuations and population.

To cover the remaining balance, Ms. Thornton said the county will also ask towns to split an additional $100,000, also specified for OPEB use.

If all requests are approved, additional county funding from the towns would total $170,000, exceeding the $130,000 shortfall. Ms. Thornton said the surplus is needed to help cover the county’s capital expenditure needs.

“It would be used to purchase a truck because I have no vehicle now for the use of the county and paving of the county administrative building parking lot,” she said.

A recent upward trend in spending on health and human services has been a point of discussion in Oak Bluffs and Tisbury this fall, where leaders in both towns have begun to explore collaboration as a way to save money on services.

Ms. Thornton said she was not aware of the concerns.

“I don’t know what’s going on at those meetings,” she said. “It’s their decision. Towns should allow voters to choose how their tax dollars are spent.”

At their meeting Wednesday afternoon county commissioners voted 6-0 to sponsor the warrant article funding requests.

A public hearing on the county budget will be held on Jan. 17 at 4:30 p.m.