Help with daycare costs available in West Tisbury

West Tisbury families that are income-eligible now may be able to receive daycare tuition reimbursement, through a $100,000 grant from a private philanthropic foundation secured by the Island Affordable Housing Fund (IAHF).

Applications may be completed now. Funding begins January 1, 2011. West Tisbury selectmen learned of the opportunity, at their meeting last week.

IAHF executive director Ewell Hopkins, in a telephone conversation, told The Times that the source of funding is the Hermann Foundation.

Applicants must complete a lengthy state Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) application form (available in both English and Portuguese) to be found on the website of consulting firm of Bailey Boyd Associates (baileyboyd.com). The IAHF will pay tuition to licensed and insured daycare providers.

To be income eligible a West Tisbury family of four’s income may not exceed $65,000. A family of two, most often mother and child, is limited to an income of $52,750, Alice Boyd told The Times in a telephone interview. Under this program, the family pays 10 to 15 percent of the tuition cost, and the grant will pay the remainder of the cost. Typically, Ms. Boyd said, part-time day care costs $600 to $800 a month.

West Tisbury families were ineligible for daycare reimbursement funding directly under the CDBG program because the state considers West Tisbury to be too wealthy, although Edgartown and Chilmark qualify.

“We are thrilled that we can help people,” Ms. Boyd said. “There will be ample funding for everyone in West Tisbury who qualifies,” she said.

Twenty families had applied for daycare tuition reimbursement before learning that West Tisbury residents were ineligible under the CDBG regulations. “There may be a lot more families than that,” she said.

The foundation grant has earmarked West Tisbury applicants as a top priority, but the funds could also be used for residents of other towns. Across the Island, 150 families applied for daycare tuition reimbursement under the CDBG program a year ago, and there was only enough funding to serve the needs of 70 families, Ms. Boyd said.

A new well

In other business, the selectmen signed a well easement agreement between the town and the Maley family, which owns the abutting property, to allow for the installation of a new well to serve both the West Tisbury Free Public Library and Howes House.

The selectmen were asked to sign the documents so that the library planning committee, currently in the process of designing a new or expanded library, could be assured of meeting a January 27, 2011 deadline for submitting a funding grant application to the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC).

The MBLC grant would provide for as much as 60 percent of the total cost of building a new library, including $800,000 in land acquisition expenses. A public meeting with the architect is planned for 5:30 pm, on December 6, at Howes House, according to committee chairman Linda Hearn.

Stipends for town staff

The selectmen also approved payment of budgeted stipends to the town’s data processing staff members, including $2,000 for treasurer Kathy Logue and $1,500 for town accountant Bruce Stone. Selectmen postponed other stipend payment decisions. In a memo to the selectmen dated October 27, Mr. Stone asked that the issue of stipends be reviewed by the selectmen, since it has not been in the five years Mr. Stone has served as accountant.

During a discussion of the FY2011 budgeting process and the wording of a preliminary letter to be sent to department heads, Jen Rand, executive secretary, said, “The town departments are doing a very good job in being careful with their spending. I am not sure what else these one-person departments could do to change their budgets or keep them lower.”

“I think we have seen over the past two years that there have been real efforts made by the various departments to keep their expenses in line,” selectman Richard Knabel said.

Selectman Jeffrey (“Skipper”) Manter urged the selectmen to attend upcoming meetings of the Up-Island School Committee. Mr. Manter, who is an elected member of the committee, said that Up-Island School funding shortfall may mean a $600,000 assessment to the town.

Mr. Knabel said that 60 percent of the town’s budget is allocated for the town’s portion of the school budget, and if the $600,000 shortfall comes to pass, it may be necessary to tell the town department employees that the selectmen will not support any new positions and might be forced to cut back hours to save money,

“We do not know what else we might need to do. We do not know what is going to happen with local [state] aid. There is a $2.2 billion hole in the state budget. Local aid has already been cut. We have been told there are going to be some more cuts. I think we may have to make some hard decisions down the road,” Mr. Knabel said.

Selectman Cindy Mitchell suggested that the letter to the department staff doing preliminary budgeting for FY2011 urge them to hold the line. She said the letter might say, “We may be in a more untenable situation given other budgets so this is preliminary guidance. Stay tuned.”

While agreeing to Mr. Manter’s request that the selectmen attend upcoming school committee meetings, Mr. Knabel expressed his frustration with the school committee’s budgeting process.

“To quote my friend Al Devito,” Mr. Manter said, “‘We were given a lot of data but we were given no information.’

“I suggest you give them no money, until you get the information.”