Tisbury voters will be asked to choose between Tom Pachico and Jon Snyder to fill one seat on the three-member board of selectmen when they go to the polls on Tuesday, April 24. Incumbent Geoghan Coogan did not seek reelection.
Polls will be open from 12 noon to 8 pm at the American Legion hall.
Mr. Pachico has a long history of involvement in town affairs as a town employee and an elected official. He is the Tisbury health agent, a job he has held for more than 19 years. He also owns a septic system inspection business that he operates outside of town. Mr. Pachico’s first experience in town politics was as a parks and recreation commissioner. He most recently served three terms as a selectman. He lost his seat to Jeff Kristal in the 2008 election.
Mr. Snyder and his family spent summers on the Island for 30 years. He worked primarily in Boston as an investment manager prior to moving to the Island full-time in 2005 when he was appointed as investment manager and vice president of Edgartown National Bank. He has served as treasurer of Habitat for Humanity and later as the nonprofit’s director of development. Mr. Snyder is currently a personal banking representative at Sovereign Bank’s Oak Bluffs branch. He has served on Tisbury’s Finance and Advisory Committee (FinCom) for six years and on the All-Island FinCom for five years.
As part of its election coverage, The Times emailed the two candidates three questions. Their responses follow:
If it were your job to set the agenda for Tisbury for the next three years, what two or three priorities would you put on the list, and how would you develop support among your fellow selectmen and voters for what you propose?
Mr. Pachico: The town desperately needs a new Town Hall. I think everyone knows that. We need more space, and a more user-friendly and energy-efficient building.
I understand that the school is also looking at space needs, retrofitting the current building, or building a new one. Maybe it’s possible to marry the two projects, and possibly move the police up there also, as well as the annex departments, saving utility and maintenance costs, as well as opening up a number of parking spots in the Water Street lot. In order to do this and not break the bank we taxpayers need to take steps to pay down debt and not take on, or at least pare down, any major new debt such as the $3,000,000 by-pass road, and sewer expansions.
I think a moratorium on wastewater increases should be put in place so we are not forced by the State to expand our leaching fields and sewer plant. As debt rolls off I think we need to not add more right away. Taxes are killing the working force. I know; I’m one of you. No trust fund, no big bank account. Common sense and logic should bring people together.
Mr. Snyder: Tisbury is in relatively good shape financially and organizationally, but we have a few challenges ahead of us. Our infrastructure needs improvement, and we have difficult choices to face.
First, the town is going to need to upgrade its wastewater treatment plant. This project won’t happen quickly – it will take time to determine our needs and design the plant before we begin to build, but we don’t have a choice about whether to upgrade.
Second, the Tisbury School is 83 years old. It can barely serve the students we have now, and the building will need to be updated or replaced sometime in the next several years. Like the wastewater plant, this project won’t happen overnight, but we need to be thinking about it now.
Good decisions come from good communication of all aspects of each issue. Our administration has done a great job of asking good questions and collecting information. As selectman, I would work to build consensus, using clear communication to avoid misunderstandings. A board that works together can be more productive than a board that is at odds with itself. Tisbury has had four years of relative harmony among the selectmen, and I’d work to keep that positive atmosphere.
Real estate values are not rising. Tax rates are. The economy has not been strong for three years. Town budgets respond to non-discretionary cost increases by rising. How would you propose to restrain rising town costs and the tax burden that goes with them?
Mr. Pachico: Increasing population, and mandated State and Federal requirements, as well as inflation, drive budgets up. Fuel and utility costs have spiraled. Costs go up, even if services go down, and I don’t want us to go backwards. More revenues are needed, and the majority needs to come from tourists, not residents.
A town meals tax allowed by the State can be implemented at three-quarters percent paid directly to the town. That’s 75 cents on a $100 meal — it won’t scare away customers. A two percent increase on the State allowed room tax adds $4 to a $200 room. That won’t scare away customers either, but these things do add up to a large sum of money for the town at no cost to the businesses.
The CPA [Community Preservation Act] tax is an extra three percent on your taxes. It was good idea with a 100-percent State match but that match is now under 30 percent, and going down. It’s time to lower the percentage, or axe it; times are tough and taxpayers have other needs for their money. Marinas are required to provide pump-outs for their customers; perhaps a payment to the town is cheaper and easier.
Mr. Snyder: As we have said for years on the Finance and Advisory Committee, voters have to remember that the town budget is our money. We have to ask ourselves whether we can afford to spend each dollar, and we also must ask whether we can afford not to. Tisbury’s voters have made good choices over the years, which is why we are not in tight straits like some towns in the Commonwealth. We have made those choices through a great deal of planning and consensus building, at the committee level and at town meeting.
Tisbury has been fortunate to have the resources to build a new Emergency Services Facility when it needed one, and to keep our streets in good shape, and to provide essential services. In fact, the town has been able to fund most major new initiatives, but we shouldn’t always say yes, just because we can.
Tisbury is facing several new potentially significant projects, including upgrading our wastewater systems and renovating or replacing the Tisbury School. We will have to evaluate each of those projects carefully to be sure we are spending the right amount of money, and we will have to manage all the town’s operating expenses prudently. Fortune favors the wise, and Tisbury must be especially wise over the coming years to remain as fortunate as it has been.
The town is considering adding a new personnel director and an Information Technology (IT) director. There may be virtues to doing so, but there will be costs also. How do you analyze the proposals?
Mr. Pachico: We don’t need an IT director. We have a good and reliable service that’s never out sick or on vacation when we need them, and have all the diagnostic equipment, and the office space.
If the town administrator needs more help with personnel issues then I would propose hiring a good grant writer with people skills. We are missing the boat on a tremendous amount of grant money because department heads don’t have the time, or know the way to properly apply for them. It’s not what they were hired for. I’ve received several grants, for first flush basins, sewer, and septic loans, thankfully with a lot of free and knowledgeable help. It’s a very cumbersome, frustrating and time-consuming process, but will be very worthwhile and cost-effective, if and when we tackle a new Town Hall, school, by-pass road, or sewer expansion.
Mr. Snyder: Tisbury should be very cautious with these proposals. Every new full-time hire costs the town a salary plus benefits, including retirement and retirement health care. Also, once we hire a full-time person, it is difficult to restructure a position to be less.
Personnel is a key function, and it’s possible that spending money on effective attention to personnel matters might save money that would otherwise be spent on legal fees and settlements. IT can also be essential, with technology either helping or hindering town employees in their work.
The town has been making do for several years with personnel being managed by the town administrator and with information technology handled on an ad hoc basis. A recent consultant report recommended both positions as new hires, but the town needs to consider carefully whether we need two new full-time positions, whether either role could be managed with a part-time hire, or whether the town would be better served by outsourcing.
I think we would do well with a part-time human resources manager. For many years Edgartown has managed more personnel than Tisbury with a part-time employee. In the same vein, the town should evaluate outsourcing IT or using a part-time employee, too.
These two initiatives were dropped from the town meeting warrant because the Finance and Advisory Committee strongly recommended further study. I hope that we pursue the discussion of both positions and chose a structure — full-time, part-time, or outsourced — that gives the town the most effective solution for each need.
Polls will be open April 24 from 12 noon to 8 pm at the American Legion hall.