Oak Bluffs targets current year budget for $500,000 in cuts

Crossland Landscape, the company which maintains Ocean Park, was one of four companies named in an anonymous complaint about bid irregularities in Oak Bluffs. — File photo by Danielle Zerbonne

Oak Bluffs selectmen and the town’s finance and advisory committee voted July 14, to target $500,000 in cuts from the current year budget. The town officials are scouring the budget to find money for accounting services and costs associated with the negotiated departure of town administrator Michael Dutton, including a severance package, the salary of an interim town administrator, and possibly the cost of a personnel search firm to fill the administrator’s position.

The $24.7 million operating budget proposed by selectmen and approved by voters at the annual town meeting did not include funds to hire a town accountant. Voters defeated a Proposition 2.5 override article that included $75,000 for a town accountant and other appropriations, by a wide margin.

Representatives from the selectmen, the finance and advisory committee, and the personnel committee agreed to meet today to explore budget cuts, including staff cuts.

“We’ve cut and we’ve cut and we’ve cut, I don’t see any way around it, other than layoffs,” Ms. Burton said in a phone conversation Monday. “We have to make some hard decisions. I don’t see any other alternatives.”

Also at last Thursday’s joint meeting, Oak Bluffs school officials said they cannot close their books on time, because of discrepancies in town records. They called the situation dire.

“So many things are wrong,” school business administrator Amy Tierney told town officials.

School officials say there are mistakes in the town’s record of transactions.

“It’s anywhere from 20 cents to $155,000,” Ms. Tierney said, when asked the order of magnitude of the mistakes. She said she has spent countless hours trying to reconcile the books, but can do no more until the town hires accounting help to correct its problems.

School officials stressed that no money is missing from town or school accounts.