Planning and payroll increases push MVC budget past $1.2 million mark
Driven by a three-year planning initiative, the Martha's Vineyard Commission (MVC) operating budget for fiscal year (FY) 2007, which begins on July 1, will swell to $1,214,923, a 9.6 percent increase over the fiscal 2006 budget of $1,108,598.
The spending plan for FY 2007 represents a 41 percent increase over actual spending of $857,492 in FY 2005. The two-year acceleration in spending by the regional land use planning and regulatory agency has been pushed in part by payroll costs. Indeed, proposed payroll costs in fiscal 2007 nearly equal the total spending for fiscal 2005.
The majority of the money to fund the MVC in the approaching budget year, $750,923, will come from Dukes County taxpayers in the form of individual town assessments, based on property tax valuation.
Edgartown taxpayers will pay the largest share, 33 percent, or $247,548, followed by Chilmark, $144,833; West Tisbury, $105,812; Tisbury, $104,223; Oak Bluffs, $115,311; Aquinnah, $27,394; and Gosnold, $5,802. The town assessments appear as line items in the individual town operating budgets taken up at annual town meeting.
Mark London, MVC executive director, said that three years ago the MVC embarked on a program to increase salaries to make them commensurate with pay scales of other planning agencies and with job responsibilities. In addition, the MVC converted some part-time positions to full-time, he said.
Payroll costs account for $801,0073 of the MVC operating budget, a four percent increase over 2006 and a 53 percent increase over FY 2005's total of $683,319. Health and disability insurance payments will cost the MVC $125,500.
In October, the MVC approved a five-year contract for Mr. London, who has served as executive director since October 2002. The contract calls for him to be paid $100,000 this year.
FY 2007 income includes town assessments, grants and contracts, donations, interest and a transfer from the MVC's reserve fund. According to Mr. London, lower than expected legal costs and an insurance payment allowed the MVC to shift $39,000 from the reserve fund, normally used to cover urgent or unforeseen expenses, to the income side of the ledger. The MVC budget includes $50,000 in legal expenses, the same amount as last year.
The largest single planning expense is allocated to the Comprehensive Island Plan, a three-year special planning project, begun last year. The goal of the plan, according to an MVC press newsletter, "is for the Island community to renew its vision for the future; to figure out where we are, where we want to go, and how we want to go there."
The Island plan appears as a separate $180,000 line item on the FY 2007 budget and is expected to cost $480,000 over its three-year span: $120,000 in the first year, $180,000 in the second (FY 2007) and third (FY 2008) years.
According to an explanatory note that accompanied the MVC budget, as presented to Island officials, "The planning process has taken somewhat longer to get going than originally anticipated. The Island Plan steering committee is currently outlining the planning and participation process for the coming years; this might lead to some adjustments to future budgets."
Mr. London said only $40,000 of the $180,000 would come from town assessments. The balance will come from donations and grants.
Mr. London said the MVC has committed to the towns that it will not spend any money on the Island plan until it is raised. He said expected expenses associated with the planning effort include printing, web site design and maintenance, meeting rooms, facilitation, and staff.
According to the newsletter, the plan will seek to answer questions such as: What is the best way to manage growth on Martha's Vineyard so that we can preserve the Island's unique environment and character? How can we provide housing opportunities for all income groups? How can we protect the water quality of our coastal ponds? How can we preserve critical habitat and important vistas? How can we develop a more sustainable economy? How can we find ways for people to get where they want to go, while minimizing traffic congestion?
On Oct. 6, 2005, the MVC announced the formation of the steering committee to oversee the preparation of the Comprehensive Island Plan. The committee is made up of 20 Vineyarders "from all walks of life, all towns, and representing a wide range of interests including various town boards, non-profit organizations, and individual citizens."
The steering committee includes several current MVC commissioners such as chairman Jim Athearn of Edgartown, owner of Morning Glory Farm; Linda Sibley of West Tisbury, MVC chairman and owner of Vineyard Electronics; Paul Strauss of Oak Bluffs, MVC and county commissioner and Ned Orleans, Tisbury MVC commissioner.