County holds public hearing on $4.6 million budget; last chance for comment
The Dukes County finance advisory board will hold a public hearing at 7 pm Wednesday on the county's $4,667,692 spending blueprint for the 2007 fiscal year that begins on June 30.
The hearing, in the county administration building located off Airport Road, will entertain comment on a budget funded in part by town assessments that will not appear on annual warrants during the Island's current round of annual town meetings.
Taxpayers in the seven towns that make up the county will be charged the following annual assessments: Aquinnah, $28,039; Chilmark $147,764; Edgartown, $252,801; Oak Bluffs, $117,499; Tisbury, $106,372; West Tisbury, $108,152; and Gosnold, $8,901.
Each town's county assessment comes directly off of the so-called "cherry sheet" from the state, and cannot be amended on the town meeting floor. Taxpayers must rely first on the county commissioners to exercise fiscal oversight, and lastly on the members of the finance advisory board.
At a meeting last month, the advisory board, made up of one selectman from each town, approved a draft version of the budget that included a two percent cost of living adjustment for county employees.
The FY 2007 county budget was balanced based on anticipated revenue increases in several county departments that have historically not met projections. For example, rodent control, which will cost taxpayers $60,633, is expected to increase revenue from $12,500 to $20,000. Norton Point Beach user fees are expected to generate $16,000 in revenue, despite the fact that management of the beach has been turned over to The Trustees of Reservations. The engineering department, which accounted for no revenue in FY 2006, is projected to generate $52,500.
Other revenue sources include deeds excise ($150,000) and the sale of Cape and Islands license plates ($115,000).
County manager E. Winn Davis, who is paid an annual salary of $75,380, said he has worked closely with the advisory board to come up with a budget. Asked why he anticipated money from the sale of beach stickers when The Trustees were not expecting to show any surplus for the first several years Mr. Davis said he might have to revise the revenue figure for natural resources.
The county budget includes spending $184,979 for county management; $22,305 for the services of the elected county treasurer; $38,335 for the veteran's agent; and $79,026 on the health access program.
The finance advisory board must approve the budget before it is sent to the state's County Finance Review Board for final approval.
The advisory board members include Art Smadbeck of Edgartown, Tristan Israel of Tisbury, John Early of West Tisbury (chairman), Michael Dutton of Oak Bluffs, Warren Doty of Chilmark, and Jim Newman of Aquinnah.