This year’s West Tisbury warrant seeks your approval of $19.8 million in appropriations. The tax levy amount is $400,000 more than the maximum amount allowed by law. Therefore, you are also being asked to approve a $400,000 Proposition 2½ override to allow the tax levy to increase 5.9 percent over 2018. The West Tisbury selectmen’s Op-Ed letter references the town’s population growth and the resulting structural changes in town and regional government services. The Op-Ed goes into great detail about the reasons for the West Tisbury budget increase and the override.
Some of those factors are beyond town control, yet many are the cumulative result of decisions and policies made over many years; all ultimately with the approval of voters at town meetings. The finance committee has issued its recommendations, printed with the warrant; the committee asks voters to carefully consider both the immediate and long-term ramifications of their votes.
Town meeting decisions have long-term consequences as well as short-term. For every additional employee, building, vehicle, or other equipment, there are attendant long-term insurance, maintenance, and replacement costs that are not reflected in the warrant articles being voted upon, but become a permanent part of the budget for every year thereafter. If we are to avoid another override in subsequent years, we must carefully consider these consequences when casting our votes at this year’s and future town meetings.
It should be noted that we already face an increasingly expensive future. Although West Tisbury has worked hard to pay down its OPEB (other post-employment benefits) liability, a number of regional entities have been less successful. The total regional liability to which West Tisbury will need to contribute is approximately $58 million. The high school is facing a possible $100 million cost to replace or significantly upgrade its facilities. The high school alone could add $1 million a year or more to our budget for the foreseeable future.
Taxes are going up. This year in West Tisbury, we face a $400,000 Proposition 2½ override. If all warrant articles and the override are approved — a 5.9 percent increase over 2018 — taxes on a $750,000 property will increase approximately $232; the override alone represents $114 of that increase — nearly half.
Town meeting is the final arbiter, and has the power to affect the final outcome. It can even avoid the override entirely by voting down $400,000 in spending among town budget lines and/or warrant articles (other than CPA, which are expenditures of funds already raised). Doing so will require real consideration — are we willing to forgo some services, or shall we spend the money? There is more to think about than just this year’s budget. Voting an override not only authorizes more spending this year, it increases our future ability to spend without an override — our “tax levy capacity.”
on behalf of West Tisbury finance committee