Edgartown takes up $27.5 million, 68-article annual warrant

Edgartown voters will meet at 7 pm, Tuesday, in the Old Whaling Church on Main Street, to take action on a 68-article annual town meeting warrant and a $27,528,381 spending plan for fiscal 2012, which begins July 1. For the most part, the warrant and budget hews to the town’s reputation for conservative management.

The FY 2012 operating budget is about 3.4 percent higher than the budget for the current year. The budget includes a 1.5 percent cost of living increase for two employees that will cost taxpayers $93,500, a hike in school costs, $150,000 to begin to fund post-employment benefits for retired municipal employees, and funding for the town dredge, an item previously presented as an override question (A copy of the operating budget is available at mvtimes.com).

The long warrant includes nine proposed bylaw changes. These include a change to the town noise bylaw intended to limit early morning and late night construction noise, and changes in the zoning bylaws that would increase setbacks for wind turbines (The annual town meeting warrant appears in a special section in today’s print edition of The Times).

On Thursday, April 14, voters will elect town officers and take action on three Proposition 2.5 questions totaling $293,000. Incumbent selectman Margaret Serpa faces no opposition.

The only election contests will be a three-way race for two seats on the financial advisory committee, a two-way race for a one-year seat on the library board of trustees and a four-way race for two three-year terms on the library board.

Budget bumps

Edgartown’s FY2012 operating budget will increase from $26,629,310 to $27,528,381.

In the category of general government, for example, town administrative functions that include the offices of the selectmen, treasurer, clerk, zoning board of appeals, and council on aging, will cost taxpayers a total of $2,043,276, up from $2,026,881 in FY2011.

The category named protection of persons and property, and which includes the police, fire and shellfish departments, will increase from $3,737,195 to $3,791,294. The biggest expense in this general category is the police department, at $2,307,514. The Edgartown ambulance service will spend $598,007, and the fire department will cost $318,956.

The cost of educating town children will increase from $9,148,524 in FY2011 to $9,423,796. That figure includes a jump in the regional high school assessment from $3,243,939 to $3,351,561.

The cost of the Edgartown Public Library, often in the news the past year, will increase from $449,930 to $461,744.

Employee retirement and insurance benefits, for example health insurance, Medicare, and $150,000 to begin funding the “other post-employment benefits” account, total $3,712,100.

Unclassified expenses include the addition of the cost of the town dredge at $236,000, a figure previously included outside the budget. Other expenses include the Martha’s Vineyard Commission assessment, $286,829, and the cost of contributing to the Dukes County Regional Housing, $70,750.

A regional assessment that does not appear in the budget is the $305,423 the town must pay to support the Dukes County budget. At the same time, taxpayers will also be asked to increase the share they pay to support the county’s one-man pest management department ($14,014) and the Health Care Access program ($40,417).

Noise and wind

Pamela Dolby, Edgartown town administrator, expects a slate of bylaw changes will generate the most discussion Tuesday night on town meeting floor. Ms. Dolby said a proposal to broaden the noise bylaw stems from numerous complaints to town officials over the years.

The initial change would modify the language that now refers only to music to include “all noise that is plainly audible at a distance of 50 feet from a vehicle or premises from which it originates.”

A new bylaw would restrict construction noise from 8 pm to 7 am, Monday through Saturday and allow for no construction noise on Sundays or named holidays. Fines would range from $100 for a first offense to $300 for a third and come with the threat of a building permit revocation.

Zoning bylaws amendments pertaining to Wind Energy Conversion System (WECS), also known as wind turbines, are also on the warrant.

One change would increase the minimum setback distance from property lines for all WECS from the maximum height of the machine from grade plus 20 feet to at least three times the maximum height of the machine from grade. Another proposed amendment would redefine when a windmill is considered abandoned from two years to 6 months.

Also on the new technology front is an update to the town’s existing bylaws for personal wireless service facilities to include current technologies such as WiFi and WiMAX.

It would allow for special permits issued by the planning board for new equipment and antennas under certain conditions. These include a finding that the applicant has demonstrated that it cannot substantially provide the needed service from one or more wireless service facilities that are more compliant with the by-law, and that the visual impacts of the proposed facility are mitigated to the maximum practicable extent by one or more methods that could include concealing it in a structure that is compatible with the architecture of Edgartown.