Oak Bluffs voters will decide next week whether to take a fresh tack on the long-stalled town hall renovation project and approve an all-new $13.3 million plan to overhaul the ailing town offices on School street.

The annual town meeting begins at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Tabernacle. Face masks and social distancing are mandatory. Moderator Jesse (Jack) Law 3rd will preside. There are three articles on a special town meeting warrant and 20 articles on the annual town meeting warrant. A quorum of 50 voters is required to convene the meeting.

All Island towns postponed their annual town meetings this year due to the pandemic, and most have cut back their warrants to only essential spending items. In Oak Bluffs, the warrant has been cut in half with many items delayed to the fall.

“Just the things we needed to move forward for now,” town administrator Robert Whritenour said.

The major spending item on the warrant is the new package for renovating the old town hall, after years of starts and stops with plans.

The town went back to the drawing board last year.

The new plan was unveiled at the selectmen’s meeting Tuesday with a video tour by Ned Collier and Stephen Moore of Icon Architects. Extensive interior and exterior renovations would result in a three-story town hall with a large board room, conference rooms, private offices for town officials and an elevator to service all three floors. The current building was formerly a town school and has seen no significant renovations for decades.

But the architect’s final cost estimates of $14.3 million were beyond the town’s comfort zone, selectmen said. So the group went to work to cut back on some of the more expensive elements in the plan, including a geothermal heating and cooling system, a generator and some landscaping details. That brought the cost down to $13.3 million.

Mr. Whritenour said Wednesday that if voters approve the new project, $9.8 million previously appropriated for the new town hall will be rescinded. The money was never spent when bids came in later well above budget.

If the project is approved on the town meeting floor it will also need approval in the ballot box two days later to exempt the debt from the provisions of Proposition 2 1/2.

In an interview and follow up emails with the Gazette this week, Mr. Whritenour said he’s confident that careful due diligence has been done with the project, and he said this is a good time for the town to borrow money, with interest rates at historic lows.

“I think the feeling is that we have hit the sweet spot . . . to create a good value for the town,” he said in an email. “I think the design is actually superior in serving the public in a simple and accessible way that preserves charm of the existing structure.”

He added: “Our feeling is that maybe the time is now to knock this project out as both construction costs and interest rates will go nowhere but up from here.”

In general this will be a conservative year for spending, Mr. Whritenour said.

A $32.4 million annual town operating budget will see few increases. “No major changes, it’s primarily level funded from the previous year,” he said of the budget which was pared back by about $500,000, taking into account an anticipated drop in revenues this year.

When the decision was made to postpone the annual town meeting, town leaders took the extra time to scrutinize every line item in the budget.

“People should be confident that this is a very lean budget,” Mr. Whritenour said.

Spending items that remain intact include $25,000 to enhance building maintenance in town, $15,000 for tree work and $12,000 to help the fire department improve evening weekday and weekend duty coverage. With guidance and direction from the new fire chief Martin Greene, the town will add a part-time fire prevention officer to help with inspections. And a specialized emergency rescue team will be trained for out-of-the-ordinary fire and rescue calls such as hazardous material incidents, vehicle extractions and confined space rescues.

“It will help be an additional professional resource for our community,” Mr. Whritenour said.

With union contracts expiring this year, salary freezes town employees are likely.

“Discussions are continuing, it does not look good for COLAs [cost of living increases],” Mr. Whritenour said, noting that the no-frills budget includes no funds for cost of living increases.

Voters will be asked to approve some $2 million in capital spending for a downtown sidewalk improvement project.

Funded by low-interest bonds with no use of free cash, the expenditure would be a sensible investment in the future right now, Mr. Whritenour said.

“Downtown sidewalks is a pretty important project, even more so given the problems we’re having with social distancing,” he said, adding: “We have substandard sidewalks, they’re far too narrow.” He continued:

“We’re very fortunate that we have a downtown that’s a full-time year-round downtown . . . investment in these important public infrastructure elements can help make the downtown a better place to do business so that can help us bounce back from some of the economic impacts of the pandemic as well.”