Meals, room tax hikes give Oak Bluffs budget breathing room

Increases in local meals and room taxes have pushed Oak Bluffs local revenue well above projections in the first half of the fiscal year, according to interim town administrator Bob Whritenour.

Last year the town netted $316,524 from the meal taxes in the first half of the fiscal year from hikes in local taxes enacted by voters.

The town netted $497,166, for the same period this year, an increase of $180,642.

“That’s a very positive trend,” Mr. Whritenour told selectmen at their Tuesday meeting. “That’s exactly what we are looking for.”

Mr. Whritenour said revenues that exceed projections will offset the town’s debt, certified by the Massachusetts Department of Revenue as a deficit of $888,046 in the town’s free cash account on July 1, the beginning of the current fiscal year.

Also at Tuesday’s meeting, Jevon Rego, vice-chairman of the town’s community preservation committee, and Island housing advocates urged selectmen to move forward on affordable housing initiatives, using money already appropriated by voters. In the past two years voters have allocated $300,000 in Community Preservation Act funds to the Oak Bluffs Housing Trust.

Selectmen, and members of the affordable housing committee, acting together as trustees, control the trust funds.

“We want to see that $300,000 used, not just sitting out there,” Mr. Rego said.

Selectmen asked the affordable housing committee to evaluate several proposals and return with recommendations.

In other action, selectmen discussed revision of the regulations governing stationary peddler’s licenses. The discussion centered on food trucks located near Big Bridge and Little Bridge. They talked about space constraints, enforcing current rules about size and location of vehicles, and insuring access to parking and boat ramps, but took no action.

Officials from the Portuguese-Association Club raised the possibility of hosting the annual “Ride to the Rock,” a charity motorcycle rally previously located on private property in West Tisbury.

Selectmen asked the club to work with police and neighbors to explore options for staging the event.

Selectmen also voiced support for an initiative from Dukes County officials to secure a lease and build a new building at the Airport Business Park, through a regional grant application. “We’re not committing any funds,” chairman Kathy Burton said. “It doesn’t mean we have to buy into it. We’re just saying go try to get it.”