Tisbury annual town meeting tackles $20.4 million budget


An operating budget of $20.4 million and an annual town meeting warrant with 37 articles await Tisbury voters on Tuesday. Among spending articles are requests to fund benefits for retired municipal employees, anticipated wage increases for town union employees as a result of collective bargaining, and the purchase of three vital vehicles for the department of public works (DPW).

The annual town meeting begins at 7 pm, Tuesday, April 12, in the Tisbury School gymnasium.

The annual warrant, printed in today’s Times and posted online at mvtimes.com, includes two override articles, as well as articles to appropriate money from the town’s passenger ferry embarkation fee receipts and Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds.

Tisbury’s proposed fiscal year 2012 (FY12) operating budget of $20,451,676 is an increase of 1.8 percent, or $365,257, over FY11. The total includes about $20.3 million in budgeted taxpayer dollars, plus a transfer of $175,000 from the reserve for sewer betterments.

There is also a warrant article requesting the transfer of $800,000 from the town’s unreserved fund balance, or “free cash,” to balance the budget and reduce the tax rate.

On Tuesday, April 26, voters will elect town officers and address two ballot questions that require Proposition 2.5 overrides totaling $185,000. Incumbent selectman Jeffrey Kristal faces opposition from Thomas Pachico.

The largest shares of Tisbury’s $20.4 million budget go towards education, employee benefits, and public safety. The biggest increases in the FY12 operating budget are for education. (See “Tisbury fiscal year 2012 budget increase driven by education costs,” March 31 issue).

New equipment and capital appropriations

Article four includes eight requests for funds for capital appropriations and other new equipment. Each requires a separate vote.

The majority of the requests would fund the replacement of crucial heavy equipment for the department of public works (DPW). Those include $45,000 for a small dump truck, $72,000 for a refuse truck, and $125,000 for a front-end loader.

Although the town has a replacement program to space vehicle acquisitions apart, Department of Public Works (DPW) director Fred LaPiana said this year unfortunately proved the exception when three of the department’s vehicles suffered major mechanical difficulties and failures.

The Board for Public Works (BPW) also requested $4,000 from free cash to relocate the DPW’s mechanic’s shop to the garage that was built in 2006 to temporarily house the fire department’s new ladder truck, which didn’t fit in the existing fire station. The ladder truck will be moved to the new emergency services facility once construction is complete next fall.

Two other articles concern property acquisition. Article 17 would utilize $10,000 from the remaining unexpended funds appropriated at the April 2009 annual town meeting to acquire two parcels of land at the Vineyard Haven Post Office on Lagoon Pond Road. Mr. LaPiana said surveying is complete and the next step is negotiation with the U.S. Postal Service to purchase the property, which includes the bricked area at the corner. The parcels will be used to extend the town’s bike path system and to put utility lines underground. Article 37 would authorize the selectmen to acquire property, whether through purchase, gift, eminent domain, or otherwise, for aquifer protection purposes near the Manter Well off Holmes Hole Road.

Other free-cash articles include $2,397 to fund Tisbury’s share of a feasibility study for relocation of the school superintendent’s office, $1,500 in additional funds for the Martha’s Vineyard Cultural Council, and $7,000 for three new computers and software for the Vineyard Haven Public Library.

If voters approve all of the articles that will utilize the town’s free cash, which total $1,120,229 million, including $800,000 to balance the budget, Mr. McLean said there would be about $54,000 remaining until the fiscal year ends on June 30.

Spending embarkation fee receipts

Voters also will be asked to spend $239,343 from the town’s passenger ferry embarkation fee revenues. The state-legislature-imposed 50-cent surcharge on one-way ferry passenger tickets is intended to mitigate the impacts of ferry service on port towns such as Tisbury by providing harbor services, public safety protection, emergency services, or infrastructure improvements within or around the harbor.

The 14 items included in the article were recommended for funding by the town’s embarkation fee committee, which reviewed requests submitted by town departments. They include wages for additional summer traffic officers, funds for beautification of downtown Vineyard Haven, the purchase of high-visibility cross walk signs, as well as a new police vehicle and four-wheel drive vehicle for the Shellfish Department.

Harbormaster Jay Wilbur is back with a request for funds to improve his office at Owen Park. Voters rejected Mr. Wilbur’s request for $1,800 in 2008 for the design of improvements that included an observation deck so he could look out at the Steamship Authority slips. This time around Mr. Wilbur is requesting $10,000 to design and construct a dormer on his office.

Community Preservation Funds

The CPA Committee recommended using $560,625 from the town’s local receipts from CPA funds towards projects, rental assistance, and affordable housing. The funds come from a three-percent surtax on property taxes and will be matched by the State at 39.9 percent for FY12.

Projects chosen by the CPA Committee this year include continuing restoration and preservation of the Tashmoo Spring Building, restoration of the Lake Tashmoo herring run, exterior restoration at the Vineyard Playhouse, and preservation of historic town hall permanent records.

Two overrides

Articles 19 and 26 are tied to two Proposition 2.5 override questions.

Article 19 asks voters to allow the town to assess an additional $85,000 in real estate and personal property taxes to fund anticipated collective bargaining and employee wage and contract agreements for the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2011.

“The $85,000 is for the police and the general union of the town, which are currently in negotiations,” municipal finance director Tim McLean explained in a phone conversation last week. “It’s just a ballpark figure. You can’t put a percentage on it ahead of time, because then you’re considered not negotiating in good faith. But rather than not have any money set aside, I picked a number I thought was a good estimate and put it in there.”

Article 26 asks voters for approval to begin funding $100,000, a portion of Tisbury’s cost for other post-employment benefits (OPEB), that is, retiree healthcare and not pensions, through additional real estate and personal property taxes for FY12.