Setting Oak Bluffs budget priorities, public invited

Facing an estimated $1.5-million budget shortfall next year, the Oak Bluffs finance and advisory committee will ask taxpayers to help set priorities for the town’s fiscal 2011 budget. The committee has scheduled a public discussion session for Thursday, Jan. 14, at 4 pm, in the Oak Bluffs Library.

“We want to share the reality of our budget shortfall,” committee chairman Mimi Davisson said. “Share some of the budget balancing ideas, and what the impact will be. After that meeting we’ll have a better sense of how the public feels and that will guide us as we make the budget.”

According to a committee press release, “Areas that contribute to the shortfall will be shared, and budget-balancing possibilities such as implementing hotels and meals taxes, cutting town services, freezing wages, collaborating with other towns and raising taxes through overrides will be discussed.”

The town budget process for each fiscal year, which begins on July 1, typically starts in January and culminates at the annual town meeting in April. Some public officials have expressed a desire to involve voters in the budget process earlier, so they will arrive at town meeting more informed and more involved.

“This is the first step in that,” Ms. Davisson said.