The Edgartown board of selectmen have joined the Tisbury and Oak Bluffs selectmen in opposing the proposed plan by the Martha’s Vineyard Housing Bank Campaign to allocate fifty per cent of the town’s preexisting and future revenue derived from the Local Option Room Occupancy Tax, to a new regionally created bureaucracy.

Municipal financial planning should be done conservatively and with discipline. Our towns have financial advisory boards, capital program committees, planning boards, community preservation committees, conservation commissions, and affordable housing committees. None of these committees has been able to play any role in the development of the proposed housing bank Legislation. Our town counsels have not had any input on this article, as it was written by an attorney retained by the Housing Bank Campaign.

There are too many open ended questions. How much of the money the Housing Bank Campaign is asking for will be used up paying for salaries, office space and general administrative costs associated with the creation and maintenance of a new governmental bureaucracy? There is no definition of the term year-round housing. There are no eligibility requirements defined. There is no provision for the role of towns that do not participate. Will the housing bank revenue be used to mitigate the environmental impacts of the housing developments? Will the housing bank be responsible for increases to our school budgets in affected towns? How will Edgartown make up for the approximately $500,000 reduction in our current local receipts? Hoping and guessing that maybe the expanded room tax will bring in enough to offset this deficit is no way a municipality should plan.

Tax revenue is a precious commodity and is the life blood of our respective communities. It is also a scarce commodity and as such, needs to be carefully and thoughtfully apportioned to the various municipal needs. The diversion of local receipt revenue could affect overall real estate tax rates. In the next five to 10 years, Edgartown will require over $17 million of vital capital improvement projects that mitigate the effects of climate change, nitrogen loading in our ponds, and update the general infrastructure necessary to sustain a seasonal coastal community. This number is not including an unfunded OPEB liability in excess of $31 million and a future regional high school upgrade that has been estimated to cost roughly $100 million. Conversely, our net receipts from state aid have decreased by over 20 per cent.

Presently, town meeting votes on the disposition of every dollar of tax revenue we spend. The commitment in perpetuity of a large unknown amount of tax revenue would take that discretion from voters and place it with a seven-person committee, only one of whom would be representing his or her respective town. Once this is done there is no way to ever recoup that revenue, it will be lost forever.

The town realizes that housing shortages are a complex causal problem that is exacerbated by the geography of Martha’s Vineyard. Nevertheless, and despite past and future competing interests, Edgartown is committed to affordable housing as predicated on the development of Morgan Woods, Jenny Lane, the 6th Street Lots, the Metcalf Properties, and the upcoming Meshacket Affordable Housing Project. Furthermore the town has appropriated $469,000, $172,600, and $362,000 in affordable housing warrant articles in fiscal Year 2018, 2019, and 2020, respectively. Affordable housing challenges are something that has taken center stage in the town’s budgetary priorities, and Edgartown’s commitment as a leader within the commonwealth is unequivocally demonstrated by the above mentioned.

Edgartown taxpayers are already paying over $800,000 per year in taxes to fund the Community Preservation Act. Eighty per cent of this tax revenue is available every year to affordable housing projects. Since 2006 our community preservation committee has recommended to town meeting $2.77 million of affordable housing initiatives, that include over $1 million for rental assistance, $300,000 for Jenny Way infrastructure, $68,550 for the Habitat for Humanity house on South Tenth Street, $741,000 toward our Meshacket project, $233,500 toward income eligible home owner repairs and capital improvements, and $165,000 toward affordable housing projects in Tisbury. In addition it is worth noting that since 2005, we have created 105 affordable housing units not including youth lots awarded prior to 2005 and the proposed 32 units at Meshacket.

It is our belief that municipally subsidized housing is best addressed at the municipal level. The creation of a regionally operated governmental bureaucracy duplicates and interferes with what our affordable housing committee, our community preservation committee, and our Edgartown housing trust committees are presently already doing.

Finally, this rushed approach by the Housing Bank Campaign has short circuited the usual deliberate consensus building that has been the hallmark of successful endeavors in the past. It is our hope that come what may, that consensus building will take place in the future and we will have an approach that everyone can support.

Michael J. Donaroma is chairman of the Edgartown selectmen. This commentary was also authored by selectmen Arthur Smadbeck and Margaret E. Serpa.