Chilmark annual takes up $7 million budget


Chilmark voters meet Monday to take action on a long list of annual town meeting spending articles, a budget of more than $7 million for the next fiscal year, and an overhaul of the town’s personnel bylaws.

Voters will also consider a bylaw change regarding swimming pools and tennis courts, which among other things would allow heated swimming pools in town, as long as they use energy-efficient heating systems.

Warren Doty, chairman of the selectmen, said that at first glance there do not seem to be any hot issues on the 37-article warrant, but that doesn’t automatically guarantee an uneventful town meeting.

“There don’t appear to be any big issues, but there are quite a few important spending articles voters must decide. And you never can tell what will happen at town meeting; any article can generate discussion,” he said.

The meeting begins at 7:30 pm in the Chilmark Community Center. On Wednesday voters go to the polls from noon to 8 pm in an election with no contests.

Budget up 3.4 percent

Voters will consider the FY2012 budget of $7,047,286, which represents an increase of 3.4 percent over the current year. The increase is tied to spending increases spread out over several different departments.

The town’s assessment for the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School will increase $30,000 from $487,581 to $518,077. The Up-Island Regional School District budget assessment, the largest line item in the budget, will decrease around $10,000 from $1,896,020 to $1,885,600.

Taken together, the net increase for educational costs is just over $20,000, or 0.4 percent more than the current budget.

Employee benefits will increase from $784,083 to $788,420.

Executive secretary Tim Carroll said the budget contains step increases for employees and a 2.6 percent cost of living adjustment (COLA), which was left out of last year’s budget. The proposed COLA for employees is the highest among the six Island towns this year.

For the most part, salaries will increase across the board. For example, the salary of the administrative secretary will increase from $86,068 to $88,302; the police chief salary will rise from $77,632 to $82,413; the assistant assessor salary will rise from $63,717 to $67,676; and the harbormaster salary will rise from $58,386 to $60,964.

Mr. Doty said it was a lean spending plan.

“We’ve had a significant number of requests for special projects this year, and in terms of our warrant articles we eliminated plans to resurface some of our roads and a proposal to add some bathrooms at Lucy Vincent beach,” he said.

“This is a conservative budget. We have allowed very little increase in discretionary funding inside town departments, but we have allowed a STEP increase in staff cost and in the COLA, which accounts for a couple of percentage points, he added.

Bylaw changes

Employee work rules and benefits also underpin a lengthy article that establishes a “human resources bylaw.”

The bylaw addresses employee classifications, definitions of temporary and year-round employees, recruitment and hiring practices, and sick leave benefits.

For example, year-round employees accrue sick leave at the rate of 12 days per year and may accumulate up to 60 days of sick leave.

Voters will also consider changes to the town zoning bylaw regarding swimming pools and tennis courts. The new bylaw would classify swimming pools and tennis courts as accessory uses to a primary dwelling and would require a special permit from the zoning board of appeals (ZBA).

As presented in the warrant, the bylaw would require applicants to own their principal dwelling for two years before applying for a special permit, and the special permits for new swimming pools and tennis courts could not be transferred to new owners.

The new bylaw would also allow heated swimming pools as long as the heat is supplied by solar or alternative energy systems, as approved by the zoning board of appeals. If a water-heating system is added to an existing pool, a special permit is required for installation.

Tea Lane Farm House revisited

One issue that could generate discussion is an article asking voters to appropriate $150,000 in Community Preservation Funds to partially fund renovations of the historic Tea Lane farm house at the corner of Tea Lane and Middle Road.

A three-member committee was appointed by selectmen to oversee renovations of the historic farmhouse after voters at a special town meeting last fall shot down another proposal to spend $300,000 to renovate the farmhouse and prepare the property for a tenant farmer.

Voters instead agreed to hire an architect to come up with a whole new plan, with a stipulation the plans come back to voters at town meeting for final approval. Since that time the Tea Lane farmhouse committee has met on a regular basis, but still had not submitted their plans for renovating the farmhouse.

The uncertainty surrounding the plans has upset members of the Community Preservation Committee (CPC), which decides which CPA funding requests go to town meeting. The CPC this week asked selectmen to attend their regular meeting on Wednesday night.

“The CPC said they want us at their meeting tomorrow night,” Mr. Doty said during the selectmen’s regular meeting on Tuesday. “Their concern is we don’t have a full plan to submit to the town, and do we still want to commit $150,000 when we don’t have a full plan.”

“They don’t know anything about the plan, they were uncomfortable recommending it to voters . . . they just want to be brought up to speed,” responded CPC administrative assistant Chuck Hodgkinson.

Selectman Jonathan Mayhew questioned the logic of rushing to finish the plans in time for town meeting.

“It’s not the smoothest thing . . . for the most part we try to get to an issue in advance, rather than wait for town meeting,” he said. “I’m not crazy about all this, because I don’t see that we are going to be able to do it that quickly.”

Selectman Frank Fenner, also a member of the Tea Lane committee, disagreed.

“The one question I have is: What is the harm of doing this, because it would just be earmarking funds for this project. And if this project didn’t go ahead, the money can’t be spent for anything except that one item. It can’t be misspent. It’s just preparation,” he said.

Selectmen were expected to meet with the CPC last night. Results of that meeting were not available at press time, but will be available in a future edition of the Times.

Spending Articles

A number of funding requests for new programs, vehicles and equipment are separated into a series of individual warrant articles, the largest of which asks voters to transfer $220,000 from the Fire Department Stabilization Fund to purchase and equip a new tanker truck for the fire department.

Mr. Carroll said there is enough money in the stabilization fund to cover the cost of the tanker truck, and the town would not have to raise or borrow any new funds. He said the new tanker would replace the current truck, which is over 20 years old.

“Back in the 1980s we bought a used UHAUL truck and had it modified to put a water tank on the back . . . I think it’s safe to say this will be an upgrade, and a necessary upgrade,” he said.

Another article asks voters to transfer $32,165 from available treasury funds to purchase and equip a new four-wheel drive Ford Expedition for the police department. The new Expedition would replace a 2002 Chevy Tahoe currently used by the department.

Voters will also consider an article asking to transfer $10,000 from available treasury funds to install metal stairs at Squibnocket Beach, a plan sponsored by the town beach committee and recommended by the finance advisory committee.

There is also an article asking voters to transfer $30,000 from the waterways improvement account to rebuild the town dock at Hariph’s Creek, another asking voters to appropriate $20,000 in CPA funds to restore historic stone walls along public roadsides and another asking for $24,465 in treasury funds to purchase new software and training for the accounting department.

There are also funding requests for new self-contained breathing apparatus for the fire department, a portable computer and three-stair chair stretchers for Tri-Town ambulance and the restoration of the Noman’s Land boat owned by the Martha’s Vineyard Museum.