When Aquinnah voters convene next week for the Island’s final annual town meeting, they will weigh funding for town building repairs, proposals to make the town more energy efficient and a plan to raise the town’s short-term rental tax.

Voters will take up the 32-article warrant at Aquinnah town hall on Tuesday, May 9. The quorum is 40 voters. Longtime moderator Michael Hebert will preside at the podium.

Alongside the articles, voters will be asked to approve a $6.4 million budget, a 10 per cent increase from last year.

The largest spending request on the warrant is a $250,000 ask for emergency repairs to several town buildings. The repairs, according to town administrator Jeffrey Madison, are long overdue.     

“There are a number of issues,” he said. “There is a hole in the exterior wall of the police station, where you can reach your hand through and touch the desk inside…and a raccoon has taken residence in the fire station.”

Other upgrades include replacing the front door and windows at town hall.

A $73,406 appropriation would go towards paying off expenses from a feasibility study to improve municipal buildings that went over budget. The study suggested a $12 million renovation plan, but that hasn’t been implemented because it was “more than the town selectmen thought could be absorbed by the town budget,” Mr. Madison said.

Also on the warrant is a $60,000 for mini-split cooling units in town buildings and $30,000 to replace the auxiliary generator at town hall, along with a series of smaller funding requests.

The town will also consider raising the short-term rental tax from 4 to 6 per cent, plus a 2.5 per cent administrative fee.

Aquinnah is one of three Island towns that has not yet raised the tax to the maximum level of 6 per cent. Mr. Madison said there has been a push to get that funding to be earmarked for affordable housing, but no such article appears on this year’s warrant.

Two articles related to energy sustainability were brought to the select board from town energy committee chairman Bill Lake and placed on the warrant.

One would put restrictions on new buildings and substantial renovation projects that make use of fossil fuels, while the other would adopt a more restrictive energy code to make all new construction more energy efficient.

Aquinnah is part of a 10-town pilot program to eliminate fossil fuels in all new construction and the state’s Department of Energy Resources is requesting the participants adopt these measures.

“These would make our town comply with regulations the Commonwealth has developed for energy efficient building,” Mr. Madison said. “Both of these articles would make us a clear leader.”

As the last town to have its annual meeting this year, Aquinnah will have the deciding vote on the regional high school’s operational budget.

The budget has been a point of contention this year, with both West Tisbury and Chilmark voting against their shares of the budget in protest of the school’s ongoing litigation with the Oak Bluffs planning board over an artificial turf field.

The budget needs four towns’ approvals to pass. If Aquinnah votes not to fund its portion, the high school committee will be tasked with revising the budget.

“Not passing the school budget, to my mind, would not be a wise decision,” Mr. Madison said.   
This week, the school committee said it will try to resolve the suit and has scheduled a meeting May 5 to talk about the litigation ahead of the Aquinnah town meeting.

The town will also vote on a $110,000 debt exclusion to pay for the Up-Island Regional School District budget. The school funding question requires a two-thirds majority at town meeting and further approval at the town election.

Aquinnah’s annual town election will take place on May 11, from noon to 8 p.m., at town hall, and has no contested elections.