Aquinnah meets for annual with $2.9 million budget in place

Aquinnah meets for annual with $2.9 million budget in place

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Aquinnah voters will be asked to do double duty Tuesday night. A special town meeting is scheduled to begin at 6:45 pm followed by the annual town meeting at 7 pm.

Historically, assembling a quorum of Aquinnah voters and getting them all to sit down in a very timely manner is never easy at the annual. There is, after all, a lot of local news to catch up on in the Island’s smallest town in the spring.

Next week, voters may have more time than usual to chat after the meeting. Veteran selectman Camille Rose said she could not think of one warrant article that would generate any controversy, and the operating budget for the next fiscal year will decrease. “We’re in good shape,” Ms. Rose told The Times in a telephone call.

Aquinnah voters will be asked to take up a 32-article annual town meeting warrant and $2,973,886 operating budget for fiscal year (FY) 2011, that begins on July 1, that is $7,960 lower than the current operating budget (a copy of the warrant appears in today’s issue and is available at mvtimes.com).

On Wednesday, voters go to the polls from noon to 7 pm to elect town officers. There are no contested races and no Proposition 2.5 questions on the ballot.

Budget drops

Aquinnah goes into a new budget year in strong shape. Town accountant Marjorie Spitz provided an analysis of the budget that identifies $217,607 in so-called free cash available for budget items.

The most significant savings will be in the cost of education. The regional high school assessment will drop from $324,068 in FY ’10 to $250,772 in FY ’11.

A line-by-line analysis reveals level funding or cost cutting in many departments. For example, the selectmen’s department will drop from $96,502 to $96,177. The treasurer’s office will drop from $36,410 to $35,872. Total general government will increase from $454,420 to $487,857.

The police department budget will drop from $398,252 to $392,611. The shellfish/harbormaster department will remain pretty steady at $73,000.

There are department budget increases. Public works will hike from $55,839 to $66,934, mostly due to wages. The elementary school assessment will rise from $607,863 to $635,192. Employee benefits will jump from $357,749 to $371,185.

Regional costs will increase. The Martha’s Vineyard Commission assessment will increase from $27,553 to $30,289. The Tri-town ambulance assessment will rise from $103,681 to $104,269. Not shown on the budget is the $31,459 Dukes County assessment, representing a 2.5 percent increase.

Warrant will sail

“I don’t believe there is a controversial article on either warrant,” Ms. Rose said. “I believe we’re going to fly right through it.”

The 14-article special warrant is mostly end-of-the-year financial housekeeping. Transfers and appropriations from free cash for office equipment and repairs to town facilities — for example money for plumbing and electrical repair services to the circle pay restrooms —

make up the bulk of the articles.

The meatier annual warrant includes a request to transfer $50,000 from free cash to a fund designed to pay for the costs of post-employment benefits, that include health insurance for retired employees.

Voters will also be asked to indicate if they would be willing to use 50 percent of the proceeds of the sale of a landlocked plot of town land to establish a program of rental housing for qualified residents or town employees.

Several other articles relate to the sale of the same piece of property, which has appeared before on town meeting floor.

Voters will also be asked to appropriate funds to a number of community preservation accounts and projects. Those include $15,000 for restoration and repairs to the Gay Head Lighthouse; $14,000 for the restoration of exterior trim at the Gay Head Community Baptist Church; and $10,000 for the extension of the brick walkway at the cliffs.

One of the larger spending articles is a request for $38,000 for the town’s triennial revaluations. Voters will also be asked to take $35,000 from free cash to purchase and equip a hybrid four-wheel drive police cruiser.

Voters will also be asked to put $80,000 in free cash away for a rainy day, by placing it in the stabilization fund.

As it did last year, the Dukes County commissioner will ask taxpayers to help pay an increased share of two county departments, formerly funded through town assessments, with the aim that taxpayers will ultimately fund both programs.

In FY 2011, taxpayers have been asked to pick up 70 percent of the cost of the Vineyard Health Care Access Program, or $62,204 of the estimated $88,863 budget. They have also been asked to pick up an additional $61,136, in a supplementary request. Aquinnah’s share is $4,147.

The draft budget for the county’s Integrated Pest Management Program in FY 2011, which begins on July 1, is estimated to be $71,915. The county has asked Island towns to pick up 70 percent of the cost to operate the department, minus anticipated income of $25,000. Aquinnah’s share is $1,215.