In Oak Bluffs, it's all about yes. Back Wednesday.
Oak Bluffs voters approved a $24.1 million dollar operating budget and gave a green light to $770,000 worth of Community Preservation Act spending at their annual town meeting Tuesday night.
There was spirited debate over pay raises for town employees, school spending, and using public funds to restore historic churches. But in the end, voters overwhelmingly approved all the money the town asked for in a fiscal 2010 budget that is level-funded to the dollar from this year's spending plan.
When the meeting got under way, 202 voters, 6.3 percent of the town's 3,195 registered voters, were officially counted.
In a stark contrast to last year's meeting, which took four nights, voters zipped through six articles on a special town meeting warrant, and acted on 11 of the 18 articles on the annual warrant, before adjourning at 10:40 pm. Town bylaws mandate that no article be taken up after 10:30.
The annual meeting is to continue this evening at 7 pm, with several controversial articles still to debate, including changes in animal control legislation, a project to dredge in Sengekontacket Pond, and a raise for the town clerk.
Town meeting tribute
Before voters got down to business, they paid tribute to selectman Roger Wey. Currently the director of the Council on Aging, Mr. Wey served seven terms as a selectman. He is not running for re-election. Martha's Vineyard legislative liaison Nell Coogan presented Mr. Wey with proclamations from both the Massachusetts House of Representatives and the Massachusetts Senate, on behalf of state representative Tim Madden. Mr. Madden had hoped to attend, but was held up by votes at the State House.
"I will not be going far, just changing seats from where I sit now, to where you're sitting," Mr. Wey said, in a voice cracking with emotion. Voters stood to applaud as Mr. Wey left the stage.
The budget article was among the most contentious debates of the evening. Town budget writers crafted a plan that granted three-percent raises for town employees, substantial raises for the town administrator and town clerk, and increases in school and police spending. To offset those increases, they cut a substantial chunk out of the highway department's budget, and made smaller cuts in nearly every other town department.