Tisbury voters face 21-article, $17.5-million annual warrant
Tisbury leads the pack with the first of the Island's annual town meetings on Tuesday at 7:30 pm in the Tisbury School gymnasium.
Voters will tackle a 21-article warrant, which includes a $17.5 million operating budget for fiscal year (FY) 2007, starting on July 1. This represents an approximately 5.6 percent increase from the current fiscal year. Wages, salaries, and related benefits account for over 80 percent of the town budget, according to the town's finance committee.
The warrant contains one Proposition 2.5 override as a ballot question, asking voters to approve the issuance of bonds for a town project to place all overhead utility wiring underground on Union Street between Main Street and Water Street. An appropriation request for $250,000 to fund the project appears under a capital appropriations article.
The largest shares of the budget are devoted to school costs, insurance, and police services. These three categories account for about $10.5 million in town spending for FY 2007.
Warrant article spending requests include $165,000 in critically needed repairs for town hall such as stabilization of the steeple, replacement of the boiler and windows, and roof repair. Other expenditures for various town improvements include the Union Street project, the Lake Tashmoo dock, sidewalk repairs, and new floor covering for the Tisbury Senior Center's kitchen and dining/meeting room.
Town officials also will ask voters to approve spending $90,000 for a new dump truck and $30,000 for a new dual capacity fuel tank for diesel and unleaded gasoline for the department of public works (DPW).
The finance committee recommends passage of almost all the articles, with the exception of article 17, which requests $1,000 for the Martha's Vineyard Cultural Council. George Balco, FinCom chairman, said the committee opposes funding requests from previously separate entities because they often increase over time and could further burden the tax rate.
For the most part, town department budgets went up due to cost of living increases and rising insurance premiums. Education, public safety, and insurance take the biggest bite out of the town budget.
The town's share of the costs for the office of the superintendent will rise by approximately 10 percent, from $488,971 to $539,638, and the regional high school assessment by 10 percent, from $2,255,130 to $2,498,324. The police department budget will increase by seven percent, from $1,141,465 to $1,216,819.
The cost of insurance, which includes health and life insurance, goes up nine percent, from $2,349,000 to $2,568,000.
The budget does not include FY 2007 state assessments for Dukes County government (FY '06, $103,778); Vineyard Transit Authority (FY '06, $115,900); and the Martha's Vineyard Public Charter School (FY '06, $527,097).
A few of the warrant articles will be new territory for voters. At a special town meeting this week, Tisbury residents approved a formula-based approach for spending $276,000 in 2005 embarkation fee revenues. John Bugbee, town administrator, explained that the article is a one-time approach, open to amendment each year.
On next week's warrant, article 18 addresses the actual expenditures under the formula, including 20 percent ($55,000) for Water Street/Union Street beautification, 25 percent ($69,000) for safety equipment and operations, 20 percent ($55,000) for infrastructure, and 35 percent ($92,500) for capital expenditures.
Beautification projects include better signage, landscaping, Park and Ride lot improvements, and ticket kiosks. Sidewalk, curbing and crosswalk repairs or upgrades are included in infrastructure improvements.
Safety equipment and operations funds would be used towards filling police department vacancies, placing traffic management officers in intersections near the Steamship Authority terminal, purchasing a new phone system for the Tisbury police department and a foam trailer for fighting fuel-based fires in town. Capital expenditures would include the purchase of two new police cruisers, outboard engines for the harbormaster, and repairs for a paramedic transport vehicle.
Another article addresses the need for a long-term disability program for town employees. John Bugbee, town administrator, and the FinCom developed the concept of a town-funded long-term disability program. Article 19 requests $25,000 to be placed into a fund for the next four years. The fund will be capped at $100,000 and replaced annually as needed, based on the number of approved employees.
As a "rerun" that some voters may recognize, Article 9 asks for an easement to the Manter Trust property over town-owned land in Oak Bluffs. The same article was rejected at a special town meeting last November.
The Tisbury School advisory committee favors the easement to allow access to an acre of land-locked property that could be used for affordable housing for teachers. The town's planning board, however, opposes the easement because it goes against the board's goals to maintain open space, as well as habitat and aquifer protection. The FinCom had no recommendation on this article, suggesting that the Tisbury School advisory committee and town's planning board discuss the issue further.
In response to increasing demands on the town's ambulance service, article 14 would fund $36,000 in wages for a new full-time emergency medical technician. Article 12 requests a reserve fund transfer for off-Island ambulance transport, which will be offset by fees generated by the service.
Other capital appropriations in the warrant include $7,500 to purchase new computer hardware and software for the town's finance director, and $1,000 for personal flotation devices, $2,000 for navigational aids, and $500 for a copy machine for the harbormaster's department.
The cover of Tisbury's 2005 Annual Report features an original color pencil drawing by Ruth DeWilde-Major, which depicts the schooners Shenandoah and Alabama at anchor in Vineyard Haven Harbor. Ms. DeWilde-Major's artwork was the winning entry in Tisbury's first-ever report cover contest this year.