Voters asked to pay more of county tab
During the upcoming round of annual town meetings, the Dukes County commissioners will once again ask Island taxpayers to pick up an increased share of the costs of operating two county departments previously included in the county budget.
In 2008 the Dukes County commissioners helped to erase a looming fiscal year 2009 budget deficit by cutting the integrated pest management and healthcare access departments by 50 percent. Taxpayers in the six Island towns agreed to kick in the rest.
This round, town voters will also be asked to dig a little deeper. The county's draft 2010 budget calls for spending $69,542 on pest control and $90,469 on healthcare access.
In the next fiscal year, the county commissioners want to reduce the county's contribution to 40 percent of the budgets and increase the towns contributions to 60 percent of the overall costs. The eventual aim is that the towns fully fund both programs.
Most of the money for county services directly under the control of the paid county manager comes from individual town assessments. Voters in the seven towns of Dukes County, which includes Gosnold, are often unaware of the amount because it does not appear as a line item on annual town meeting warrants. In FY 2010 that assessment will total $828,701.
Although included in the county budget, the Sheriff's Department, the Registry of Deeds, both headed by elected officials, and the Martha's Vineyard Airport, under the statutory control of the county-appointed airport commission, have self-sustaining sources of revenue.
The Vineyard Health Care Access Program runs a variety of programs designed to help Islanders obtain healthcare and insurance. There is a full-time staff and a board of directors. Utilizing grants, the program has also instituted a number of initiatives, including dental health outreach for children and seniors.
The Integrated Pest Management department is a one-man operation that primarily deals with rat control. T.J. Hegarty, county rodent control officer, offers his services to towns and Island residents at a reduced rate, according to county officials.
The 2009 county budget calls for the department to generate $20,000 in income for the county. The Martha's Vineyard Times recently spoke to county and town officials as part of an examination of how the department does business. Information was often not readily available and needed to be compiled by county manager Russell Smith.
From the beginning of the fiscal year on July 1, 2008, to April 3, the pest control department took in $20,348. A ledger provided to The Martha's Vineyard Times shows 91 customers and the billed amounts but no dates of service.
The list of county clients includes residents, Island schools, and businesses. For example, the county billed the Edgartown, Chilmark, West Tisbury schools $300 each.