Tisbury proposes a necessary rule
Tisbury voters will be asked to approve a rule which sets out the process by which the town will annually decide how the money derived from the state legislature-imposed tax on Steamship Authority travelers will be spent. Tisbury pocketed $255,168 this fiscal year from the 50-cent surcharge on ferry passenger tickets.
The legislation, opposed by the Steamship Authority as anti-competitive and cumbersome, provides that the fruits of this imposition be used to mitigate the effects of ferry service on ferry ports, such as Tisbury. Typical uses might include providing harbor services, public safety protection, emergency services, or infrastructure improvements.
Tisbury proposes that the selectmen will appoint a permanent Embarkation Fees Advisory Committee, including five members each serving for a one-year term, to include a selectman, a FinCom member, one member of the Harbor Management Committee, and two members at large who do not serve on any other town board or committee.
The process will include a public hearing concerning planned disbursements from the fee revenues. The committee will recommend to the selectmen how the money might be used.
With money tight, municipal demands extensive, and tax payers grumpy, towns can certainly put to work every dollar they can lay hands on. Among the critics of the embarkation fee legislation, when it was proposed by Cape and islands legislators, the worry was that the income generated by the fee would form a slush fund, used for whatever purpose town officials conceived, whether related to the purposes of the law or not. The rule proposed in Tisbury is a hedge against such irresponsibility. It is a sensible approach, faithful to the legislation's goals. Tisbury voters ought to approve it.