Chilmark takes up $6.7M budget, wind energy rules
Chilmark voters face a $6.7 million operating budget and zoning bylaw amendments intended to regulate wind turbines and noisy machinery at Monday's annual town meeting, which begins at 7:30 pm at the Chilmark Community Center.
On Wednesday, voters return to the familiar wooden hall off South Road to elect town officers. There are no contests. Polls are open from noon to 8 pm.
In a telephone conversation with The Martha's Vineyard Times, selectman J.B. Riggs Parker described the warrant as "pretty straightforward." He said cost of living increases (COLA) and the wind turbine bylaw might spur some discussion.
"Certainly the town budget," said selectman Warren Doty when asked Tuesday what might prove to be a topic of discussion. "This time of year that is what everybody is interested in."
Mr. Doty said the warrant includes a request to move forward with the design and construction of three rental units at the Middle Line Road housing project. The article calls for the town to spend $92,000 to hire a project manager, design the units and obtain construction cost estimates.
Chairman Frank Fenner said every year the selectmen work with the finance committee (FinCom) to examine the budget. "This year we took extra pains to scrutinize every department," he said, adding that the budget is down to "barebones essentials" appropriate for the times.
The $6,660,825 operating budget for the 2010 fiscal year is $20,574 less than the FY 2009 budget and $92,000 below the amount that would require a Proposition 2.5 tax override.
The budget includes pay raises for town employees based on an eight-step compensation plan. With a satisfactory job review, employees may expect an annual step pay raise of 3.4 percent. In some cases, employees who may no longer qualify for a step increase do receive increases based on length of service.
The budget also includes three percent cost of living adjustments for town employees, a subject of considerable discussion by selectmen and finance committees across Martha's Vineyard, in advance of the annual round of town meetings.
The topic provided lively debate at a joint meeting of the Chilmark selectmen and members of the FinCom on March 4, when the FinCom recommended a 3-percent COLA.
Selectmen were divided. Mr. Doty argued that the fiscal 2010 budget is less than the 2009 budget, and he supported the 3-percent increase. Chairman Frank Fenner supported a 2-percent COLA. Selectman J.B. Riggs Parker argued for no increases. He said many taxpayers had experienced a real decline in income and asked that any COLA be presented outside the budget for voters to consider separately from the budget.