Oak Bluffs special town meeting will ask voters to fill budget gap

Oak Bluffs voters will deal with a revenue gap at the special town meeting on Tuesday, June 21. — File photo by Danielle Zerbonne

Oak Bluffs will hold a special town meeting Tuesday, June 21. Selectmen will ask voters in the financially beleaguered town to approve end-of-year transfers and a withdrawal from the town’s so-called “rainy day” fund to cover unbudgeted expenses for the current fiscal year.

The town is facing a $216,300 revenue shortfall less than two weeks before the 2011 fiscal year ends on June 30.

This will be the third special town meeting called in the current fiscal year. Including next week’s request, the town’s $24.6 million budget plan has fallen short by $421,224.

The special town meeting begins at 7 pm at the Oak Bluffs School. Voters will be asked to take up six articles.

The main order of business will be Article 2, a series of transfers that use unspent funds from several town departments, to cover unbudgeted or over-budget costs in other department line items.

Selectmen will ask voters to transfer a total of $110,300 left unspent in department budgets. The largest transfer is $61,500 from the selectmen’s unclassified line item, which covers insurance, utilities, engineering, auditing, office supplies, and other expenses.

If approved, the money, already appropriated by voters, will flow to other line items where spending will exceed the budgeted amount.

The account facing the largest deficit is the treasurer’s account, which covers health insurance for town employees. Town officials expect that account to fall $142,000 short this year.

What accounts for the shortfall?

At the time selectmen called the special town meeting, town administrator Michael Dutton said the shortfall was a combination of the line item being underbudgeted, and additional people joining town health plans.

Among the other departments facing deficits are the assessors and treasurers department, where the town hired extra help this year to cover the work of a finance director. That position has been vacant since the untimely death of Paul Manzi in October 2010. Mr. Manzi held the titles of finance director and treasurer.

Also facing deficits are the board of health, and the bond debt interest account.

Transfers will not close the entire budget gap. Selectmen will ask voters to withdraw an additional $106,000 from the town’s stabilization account, known informally as the “rainy day” fund.

At a special town meeting on April 12, voters tapped the stabilization fund for $65,558 worth of unforeseen expenses. The balance of the stabilization fund is approximately $1 million.

Round and round

Also on the special town meeting warrant is a measure to acquire land parcels or rights of way for construction of a rotary traffic circle to replace the four-way blinker intersection on Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road. The measure asks for $3,000, but the executive summary explains that the town does not anticipate needing to acquire any easements. “This is a technical article which is requested by the state to secure the temporary and permanent easements necessary for actual construction,” the executive summary states.

Also on the warrant is an article requesting $9,743 to cover the net cost for the town’s share of the Dukes County Integrated Pest Control program. In April, voters approved a fiscal year 2012 budget that did not include funding for the program. Selectmen agreed, at the request of county manager Russell Smith, to submit the request to voters again.

The county request would come on top of the $126,276 Oak Bluffs taxpayers already contribute in the form of the town’s county assessment, which is not subject to voter approval.

The final article appears on the warrant through a petition. It requests $34,000 from “the ferry fees, harbor revolving fund, or any other available source to purchase a surf rake for the purpose of cleaning the town beaches on a regular basis.”

State law allows citizens to add an article to a special town meeting warrant if they submit a petition with the valid signatures of 100 registered voters.