Tisbury annual town meeting tackles $20.8 million budget

Tisbury voters stood up to be counted after a close voice vote at last year's annual town meeting. — File photo by Janet Hefler

Tisbury voters will take up an operating budget of $20.8 million and 33 warrant articles at annual town meeting on Tuesday, April 10. The spending articles include a request to fund the construction of a long-planned connector road between Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road and State Road.

The annual town meeting begins at 7 pm in the Tisbury School gymnasium.

Voters go to the polls on Tuesday, April 24, to elect town officers and vote on three ballot questions. Tom Pachico, town health agent, and Jonathan Snyder, a member of the finance and advisory committee (FinCom), will square off for a seat on the board of selectmen.

The annual warrant is included in today’s Times.

Tisbury’s proposed fiscal year 2013 (FY13) operating budget of $20,847,208 is an increase of about 1.5 percent, or $306,841, over FY12. The total includes about $20,697,208 in budgeted taxpayer dollars, plus a transfer of $150,000 from the reserve for sewer betterments.

The warrant includes a request to transfer $950,000 from the town’s unreserved fund balance, or “free cash,” to balance the budget and reduce the tax rate.

The largest shares of Tisbury’s $20.8-million budget are devoted to education, employee benefits, and public safety.

Mr. Snyder, who compiled the FinCom’s voter’s guide, said that the police, fire and ambulance department budgets combined are up by 3.1 percent and Tisbury School’s budget by 2 percent.

“However, many others are down,” he said. “Tisbury’s share of the high school budget is down by 0.4 percent, and the department of public works budget is down by 4.3 percent.”

Mr. Snyder said that generally speaking, the biggest part of any department budget is salaries, wages, and benefits. “For Tisbury’s budget to go up 1.5 percent when most of the labor agreements and employment contracts have a built-in increase higher than that shows that our town departments have done a terrific job keeping costs under control,” he said.

Connector road construction

The big-ticket item for Tisbury voters is a connector road between Edgartown-Vineyard Haven (ET-VH) Road and State Road. Article 5 asks voters to allow the town to borrow $3 million to fund the construction and associated costs of the connector road system.

The connector road would offer motorists the option to cut over from ET-VH Road along the access driveway now used by Island Food Products near the Edgartown National Bank branch and exit from either High Point Road or Holmes Hole Road onto State Road. A third leg of the connector road to State Road via Evelyn Way is proposed for development later.

The goal is to decrease traffic decongestion in the State Road-Five Corners-Beach Road Tisbury business district during the intense summer months. That, in turn, may lead to some expansion or development of business in the Tisbury business zone, which has been hamstrung by the seasonal traffic overload on State Road, according to the Planning Board.

Tisbury treasurer and collector Tim McLean estimates that the connector road would increase taxes for a homeowner with an $800,000 property by $49.60 annually, starting in 2014, which would decrease to $41.38 by 2022.

Mr. McLean said some of Tisbury’s debt will roll off next year, which gives the town a window for taking on the connector road debt before incurring expenses for possible future projects, such as expansion of the wastewater system, a new town hall or Tisbury School renovations or new construction.

Union contract expenses

Two articles on the warrant relate to union contract negotiations with the Tisbury Employee General Union. Article 13 asks voters to approve the transfer of $100,000 from free cash and $138,000 from the salaries line item in the DPW’s FY12 budget to fund a union contract for fiscal years FY12 and FY13.

Article 14 ask taxpayers to shell out an additional $90,000 to fund a new step on the wage scale in the new Tisbury Employee General Union (TEGU) contract. The article requires approval at town election.

Marie Maciel, who serves on the union negotiation team, said about 50 union employees have been working without a contract since June 30, 2010. A new contract is not yet finalized.

Ms. Maciel said the TEGU looked at a 2007 study by the Massachusetts Municipal Association and found that many of its employees are underpaid in comparison to their counterparts across the state.

Ms. Maciel said rather than seeking wage and salary adjustments commensurate with those in the study, the union proposed adding a new step to the wage scale as a less costly compromise.

Wastewater planning

Article seven asks voters for $225,000 to fund the design and implementation of an additional site for treated wastewater from the wastewater plant, to be released into the groundwater without contributing to the nitrogen levels that are detrimental to Lake Tashmoo and Lagoon Pond.

Article 21 asks voters to spend $15,000 to fund a Massachusetts Estuaries study of Lagoon Pond to determine where nitrogen and other nutrients enter its watershed.

Wastewater Planning Committee chairman John Best said both articles are important components of the town’s planning efforts for the future needs and expansion of wastewater treatment, which will likely entail additional sewering.

Spending embarkation fee receipts

Voters also will be asked for approval to spend $234,254 from the town’s passenger ferry embarkation fee revenues. The state-legislature-imposed 50-cent surcharge on one-way ferry passenger tickets is intended to mitigate the impacts of ferry service on port towns such as Tisbury by providing harbor services, public safety protection, emergency services, or infrastructure improvements within or around the harbor.

The 14 items include defibrillators, wireless hardware for EKG transmittals to Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, wages for summer traffic officers, a new police cruiser, ice rescue suits for the fire department, Union Street parking lot lighting and downtown Vineyard Haven beautification.

Community Preservation funds

The Community Preservation Act (CPA) committee recommends using $596,750 from the towns’ local receipts from CPA funds towards open space, historic preservation, projects, rental assistance, and affordable housing. Projects include replacement of town hall’s exterior windows, preservation of historic town hall permanent records, a scenic view easement study for the Tashmoo overlook on State Road, and construction of bike path from Beach Road to Veterans Park.

The funds come from a 3-percent surtax on property taxes and matching funds from the State, estimated at 22 percent for FY13 at this time.

Voters will also be asked to fund the purchase of a defibrillator for the Vineyard Haven Public Library, a four-wheel drive vehicle, and a replacement bed for a dump truck for the department of public works, Owen Park dock repairs, aids to navigation for Lagoon Pond and Lake Tashmoo, and maintenance dredging of Vineyard Haven Harbor.