Oak Bluffs special called to fill $180k health-cost shortfall


Oak Bluffs Selectmen Tuesday set June 21 as the date for a special town meeting to ask voters for an additional $180,000 to fund employee health care costs. The warrant article will ask voters to transfer the money from the town’s stabilization fund.

This will be the third special town meeting called to close budget gaps totalling $515,000, in the current fiscal year.

In a phone conversation Wednesday, town administrator Michael Dutton explained the health costs shortfall. “Two reasons. It was underbudgeted, plain and simple,” Mr. Dutton said. “And we have additional people on the plans.”

Also Tuesday, selectmen agreed unanimously to waive a hiring freeze they voted at their February 8 meeting in response to ongoing budget pressures. The town plans to hire an administrative assistant for the board of health to replace a retiring employee, hire a reference librarian/assistant director and an assistant shellfish constable.

“We instituted a hiring freeze,” chairman Kathy Burton said following the meeting, “which essentially says we are going to carefully evaluate every position. We’re going to do it on a case-by-case basis. We’re going to be very careful.”

The finance and advisory committee told selectmen that the committee voted to use its entire emergency reserve fund, about $43,000, to replace the roof on the police station.

The board also heard from several residents who object to a proposal to close a short section of Dukes County Avenue for Arts District events, scheduled for July 9 and August 13, but took no action.

They listened to a company seeking permission to run Segway tours in Oak Bluffs, licensed a new charter van service, and reappointed the three current members of the shellfish committee.