Edgartown annual tackles $30.6 million budget, 66 articles

Edgartown annual tackles $30.6 million budget, 66 articles

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— Ralph Stewart

Edgartown voters will gather in the Old Whaling Church on Main Street Tuesday, April 8, at 7 pm, to take up a 66-article  annual town meeting warrant and a $30.6 million operating budget for the 2015 fiscal year (FY15), which begins on July 1.

The annual meeting warrant includes a slate of Community Preservation Act committee funding requests and several articles related to purchases and town repairs, as well as regional requests for money to support adult education and the Gay Head Lighthouse relocation.

The warrant and budget underscore the town’s reputation for conservative management. Edgartown’s FY15 operating budget will increase from $29,925,936 to $30,622,163, a modest 2.3 percent.

Edgartown selectman Arthur Smadbeck said he expects a relatively straight-forward annual town meeting, because there are no capital projects or borrowing requests on this year’s warrant.

“My guess is that the only thing that’s going to cause a lot of discussion next Tuesday is article 48, which deals with fertilizer regulations, because it’s very long and very complex,” Mr. Smadbeck said. “It’s kind of a giant enigma at this point. As far as how it’s going to be enforced and who’s going to do the enforcing, that’s a whole other side of it altogether.”

On Thursday, April 10, voters go to the polls between 10 am and 7 pm in the town hall. There are no contested jobs on the Edgartown ballot this year. Incumbent selectman Margaret Serpa is running for re-election, as is incumbent assessor Alan Gowell. There are no candidates on the ballot for the one seat on the board of health or a seat on the planning board.

Budget bumps

Town spending will increase slightly in several departments.

Education represents 36 percent of the total budget. The high school assessment decreased slightly from $4,050,582 to $3,996,893. However, Edgartown School salaries increased, from $4,929,950 to $5,176,129, and expenses rose also, from $686,159 to $702,459. The total cost of educating town children will increase from $10,704,330 to $11,134,353.

In general government — town administrative functions that include the offices of the selectmen, treasurer, clerk, zoning board of appeals, and council on aging — there is a modest hike proposed, from $2,252,927 to $2,265,452.

Protection of persons and property, which includes the police, fire, and shellfish departments, will increase by $108,973 from $4,375,600 to $4,484,574.  Police department salaries will increase by $35,227, from $2,492,964 to $2,528,192.  Edgartown ambulance service salaries will rise from $583,169  to $603,760. Fire department salaries will increase from $193,624 to $204,897.

The cost of the Edgartown Public Library, often in the news over the past few weeks, will increase modestly from $526,712 to $541,781.

Unclassified expenses including employee retirement, pension fund and insurance benefits, including health insurance and Medicare, will increase from $4,862,034 to $5,240,593 in FY15.

Edgartown’s share of regional services will also increase. The Martha’s Vineyard Commission assessment will jump by $47,710, from $336,333 to $384,043.

Straightforward

Mr. Smadbeck said he expects voters to move briskly through the warrant.

“There are no overrides this year, so I think this should be a relatively easy and straightforward town meeting,” Mr. Smadbeck said. “It’s mostly just stuff that we have every year, like getting the roads fixed and taking care of the shellfish department.”

The fertilizer article, which claims six pages of the 22-page warrant, will be placed before voters in the six Island towns, and would create one set of regulations to protect water bodies from the effects of nitrogen and phosphorus runoff, through the creation of a district of critical planning concern (DCPC) known as the Martha’s Vineyard Lawn Fertilizer Control district, which would overlay the entire Island.

Roadwork is anticipated. Voters will be asked to spend $95,000 to pave a portion of Aero Avenue, from the intersection of Katama Road to the parking lot at Katama Farm.

“It gets very dusty, and people that live along there have been raising hell about paving that road for a long time,” Mr. Smadbeck said. “So that’s definitely going to be a good thing, if it’s approved.”

Voters will be asked to spend $84,000 in free cash to buy two new police cruisers and $50,000 from free cash to buy  new equipment for the police department, including radios, cameras and interview room equipment.

A series of 16 articles on the warrant would direct the appropriation of CPC funds. They include a request to appropriate $648,000 to the community preservation budget reserve, $350,000 for interior capitol improvements to town hall, and the restoration and display of the Enid Yandell plaster, which used to hang in the Old Edgartown School.

Edgartonians, along with taxpayers in all Island towns,  will also be asked to support efforts to preserve and move the Gay Head Lighthouse. Edgartown’s share of that cost would be $149,704.

Voters will be asked to appropriate $200,000 in free cash to reduce the tax levy in FY15. “It’s a modest amount, but it’s better than nothing,” Mr. Smadbeck said.

Taxpayers will also be asked to appropriate $27,765 of free cash to fund Edgartown’s share of administrative expenses for Adult Community Education of Martha’s Vineyard (ACE MV). The program, which forecasts a deficit of $130,000, asked town leaders to place funding articles on annual town meeting warrants this spring that would generate funds to offset that deficit.

The program has nearly doubled in size since it was started in 2008, and the nonprofit organization’s fees and tuition do not generate enough income to fully fund administration and overhead at the current level, ACEMV leaders said.

Edgartown voters will decide if they want to amend zoning laws to allow for a registered marijuana dispensary (RMD) in a BII business district.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) last January, announced the statewide recipients of a limited number of RMD licenses. None of the four Martha’s Vineyard applicants for a license in Dukes County made the list.

Voters will also decide if they want to spend $25,000 for an integrated pest management program to be administered by the town.

“This service used to be provided by Dukes County, but they no longer provide that service,” Mr. Smadbeck said.

Dukes County suspended the Integrated Pest Management program last June after officials in several towns raised questions about the value of the taxpayer-subsidized county program when much of its activity focused primarily on private accounts. Edgartown leaders were particularly irked when the county said it would not remove skunks from the downtown area.