Chilmark annual takes up $8.7 million budget, Squibnocket

The Squibnocket parking area.
Susan Safford

The Squibnocket parking area.

Chilmark voters will gather in the Chilmark Community Center at 7:30 pm on Monday to take up a 30-article annual town meeting warrant and a $8,660,984.16 operating budget for the 2015 fiscal year (FY15), which begins on July 1, 2014. The 6.57 percent increase from the FY14 budget is fueled mostly by an increase in school costs.

Those costs are reflected in two Proposition 2.5 override questions. Voters will be asked to approve $122,000 for the Martha’s Vineyard Regional School District and $71,000 for the Up-Island Regional School District.

A proposal to move the often storm damaged Squibnocket town beach parking lot to a more protected area west of its current location and construct an elevated roadway to provide access to the private Squibnocket Farm subdivision is expected to generate the most sustained debate of the evening.

Two days later, on Wednesday, April 30, voters will return to the Chilmark Community Center to elect 15 town officers and vote on the two Proposition 2.5 questions. The polls are open between 12 noon and 8 pm. There are no contested races.

Squibnocket beach proposal

The Squibnocket Farm Homeowners Association and the Vineyard Open Land Foundation have worked with selectmen over the past year to fashion a plan intended to address the damaging effects of coastal erosion on the town beach parking area and the single causeway that provides the only access for residents of the Squibnocket subdivision.

The plan to be presented to voters would remove an existing boulder revetment, allowing the shorefront to return to a natural barrier beach. A new town parking lot to access the beach and Squibnocket Pond would be created to the west of its current location.

A group of Blacksmith Valley property owners, whose summer homes overlook Squibnocket Beach, presented an alternative plan to restore the popular beach, build a bridge, and relocate the parking lot, at a special selectmen’s meeting on April 4.

The group, who call themselves Friends of Squibnocket Pond, object for environmental and aesthetic reasons to the plan endorsed by selectmen. They object to the height, width, and the location of the proposed elevated two-lane roadway, which would be approximately 300 feet long. They also contend that coastal erosion will quickly become a problem for the new bridge.

Instead, the group has proposed a one-lane elevated roadway 15 feet high, which would start farther up Squibnocket Road, cut behind the current parking lot over the edge of Squibnocket Pond, and end at a point near the gate leading to the Squibnocket Farm subdivision.

The only proposal on the town meeting warrant is the plan endorsed by selectmen. If voters approve the concept of a new elevated roadway and restructuring of the beach, it would not represent final approval. Selectmen intend to schedule a special town meeting in the fall, to present an article that would authorize them to move forward with planning for the project.

As currently constructed, the plan would not require an increase in taxes. Money from private sources for the road re-construction and existing Community Preservation Act funds would cover the costs. There is also a possibility of funding from state and federal grants to further reduce the town’s expenses.

Budget breakdown by department

Town voters will face increased expenses in the form of a $8,660,984 operating budget, up $533,803 from $8,127,180 approved in FY14. The increase is primarily the result of hikes in education and benefits and insurance expenses.

The education budget increased $313,224.94, 10.49 percent from $3,297,802.06 in FY14. Total benefits and insurance jumped $115,202.21 to $1,140,374.63, a 11.24 percent increase, entirely the result of a 13.17 percent increase in employee benefits and contributions.

Budget hikes for general government, public safety, debt service, intergovernmental, human health services, culture and recreation, and public works fueled the remaining $105,376.27 increase.

The proposed budget for public safety will increase 2.64 percent to $1,358,989.

The proposed budget for the intergovernmental department is up 14.19 percent to $176,600 attributable entirely to an increase in the Martha’s Vineyard Commission assessment. Chilmark will pay $176,600 compared to $154,661 in FY14, an increase of almost $22,000. The hike raised the ire of the financial advisory committee this spring but by then it was too late to affect the assessment.

CPA requests

Voters will be asked to take action on seven Community Preservation Committee requests. These include funding for a Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation restoration of an antique farmhouse, a contribution to the regional effort to relocate of the Gay Head Lighthouse, a new roof and associated structures for the MV Museum, and the acquisition of six affordable apartments by the Island Housing Trust.

The Committee is requesting $100,000 from the historic resources reserve to fund the restoration of the 1655 Mayhew-Hancock-Mitchell House on Quansoo Farm.

Voters will also be asked to kick in $51,854 towards the estimated $3 million cost to relocate and restore the Gay Head Lighthouse, now in peril from eroding cliffs.

A total of $31,512 is Chilmark’s share of the estimated $600,000 project to install a new slate roof, rebuild the chimneys and install the associated building support structures needed for the MV Museum project.

If Chilmark taxpayers are willing to give $65,000 for the acquisition of six affordable apartments located at 14 Village Court, Vineyard Haven, qualified Chilmark tenants would receive preference for one of the six affordable apartments.

Voters will also be asked to contribute $9,567 to pay Chilmark’s share of the administrative expenses of the All Island School Committee’s contract for Adult and Community Education of Martha’s Vineyard (ACE MV) in FY15. ACE MV leaders insist the growth of the program has not been matched by sufficient growth in the operating budget needed to pay full-time staff for full-time work.

To meet ACE MV’s financial needs, ACE MV leaders have appealed to voters in the six Island towns to approve funding articles at annual town meeting this spring to generate a total of $130,000.