West Tisbury selectman Jeffrey (Skipper) Manter 3rd raised concerns at the regular selectmen meeting last week about how the county plans to fund its programs next year.

Last spring the Dukes County sheriff terminated an agreement with the county to share fees from private alarm companies resulting in a shortfall of $130,000 for the county. As a result it has set forth a few strategies for breaking even next year, including placing a five per cent administrative fee on warrant articles for county-wide human services. The administrative fee is expected to raise an additional $58,000 from the towns.

Mr. Manter, who serves on the County Advisory Board, said the fee was an inappropriate way to make up for lost revenue, and asked that the board of selectmen remove it from their warrant articles.

“Arbitrarily, in my opinion, they just slapped a five per cent fee on these different programs to raise $60,000, which has nothing to do with the services these programs are delivering,” he said. “Balancing the budget on these separate programs that are not funded through the county budget I think is unfair.”

Most expenses in the county’s FY20 budget are for salaries, maintaining the Edgartown courthouse, beach patrol and regional emergency management services. The county also collects and redistributes town funds for human services programs such as Healthy Aging MV, the Center for Living, and Vineyard Health Care Access.

County manager Martina Thornton was at the meeting and said the administrative work done at the county level is valuable to the towns and nonprofits.

“The county assessment has not, in the past 10 years, been raised eight out of the 10 years,” she added. “Now is the time for the county to have the towns realize that we have provided the services and we have not asked for more, but now we do need more.”

Ms. Thornton said they opted for the administrative fee because raising the county assessment on the towns would require a two thirds vote in every town.

“Which is really hard to get, number one,” she said. “Number two...it would permanently raise the bar of assessment going forward, meaning we cannot go back.”

To illustrate the kind of work being done on the county level, Ms. Thornton highlighted county services used to form the Center for Living, an adult and elder day program based in Vineyard Haven. Creating that service required agreements among the towns, nonprofits and the county, all arranged by county administrators, Ms. Thornton said.

“It just doesn’t happen on its own,” she said. “You don’t have to look over the bills. It has value for the nonprofits. They don’t have to send six different bills.”

After some discussion, selectmen took no action on the issue, leaving the administrative fee on the warrant. Chairman Cynthia Mitchell said making the change would complicate things last minute.

“To amend the article and make it different than what is being proposed in all the five towns is confusing to people,” she said.

In other business, selectmen approved a request from Ms. Mitchell and Ms. Thornton to allow for the vacant office space in the Center for Living building in Vineyard Haven to be used for a new health collaborative. All six towns originally signed an agreement for the Center for Living with the understanding that the office space would be rented out.

Ms. Mitchell is also CEO of Island Health Care in Edgartown, and is proposing to form a partnership among healthcare organizations on the Island to function like a department of public health, collecting data and applying for federal grants. She is circulating the request to use the space for three years free of charge among all six Island towns.

Selectmen also debated about whether they could privately discuss interest in a property on Rustling Oaks Road with the Affordable Housing committee and the Island Housing Trust. Mr. Manter said he would be uncomfortable going into executive session to discuss the property.

“I don’t see what would be the harm in doing it in the public session,” he said.

Selectmen authorized the affordable housing committee to consult town counsel on the issue.

Selectmen also appointed Dianne Powers to the personnel board.