Chilmark takes up $5.9 million budget
Chilmark voters will gather at 7:30 pm Monday in the unadorned surroundings of the community center to take up an equally spare 22-article annual town meeting warrant that includes a $5.9 million fiscal 2007 operating budget.
If approved, voters in a town considered one of the state's wealthiest, would see their annual operating budget rise by only 1.51-percent, from $5,795,782 in FY 2006 to $5,883,290 in FY07, mostly due to a nine-percent decrease in the town's school costs.
The warrant is relatively free of articles likely to prove controversial, according to town leaders. Any discussions Monday night of the issues dotting Chilmark's political landscape - Middle Line Road affordable housing, Menemsha's commercial fishing lots, and efforts to preserve commercial fishing - are expected to be tangential to the articles presented on the warrant.
The largest spending article is a request for authorization to borrow $550,000 for repairs to the West Dock in Menemsha. That measure must also be approved as a Proposition 2.5 question on the election ballot.
Voters will also be asked to allow the town to begin charging for ambulance runs as part of an agreement by the three towns that make up the Tri-town ambulance service to recoup some of the cost of the service by billing people who have medical insurance.
A similar attention to the bottom line and cost of town services is reflected in an article that would hike the penalties the town now charges property owners when public safety personnel must respond to a false burglar or fire alarm.
The 2005 Chilmark annual town report and FY07 warrant and budget are available on line at www.ci.chilmark.ma.us/.
On Wednesday voters will return to the community center to vote between noon and 8 pm for town officers. The only race on the election ballot is between incumbent Frank Fenner, chairman of the Chilmark selectman, and Steve Gallas, a town firefighter and EMT. Janet Buhrman, running as a write-in candidate, is challenging Robert Thorpe for a seat on the board of health.
The town will need to rely on write-in candidates to fill several gaps. According to a sample ballot, there are no candidates for two seats on the finance advisory committee, one seat on the planning board, and the surveyor of wood, lumber and bark.
Running unopposed are: Leonard Jason Jr., assessor; Mitchell Posin and William Meegan, planning board; Frank Yeomans, finance advisory committee; Jane Slater, library trustee; John Flender, cemetery commissioner; Mitchell Posin, fence viewer; Pamela Goff, Land Bank commissioner; and Keith Emin, tree warden.
School costs temper rise
Although the costs of many individual town departments show an increase, the overall budget shows only a modest increase, mostly due to a drop in the Martha's Vineyard Regional High School assessment, which dropped by $112,029 and the Up Island Regional School District, which dropped by $65,469.
The total cost of education is $1,794,120, a nine-percent or $177,498 drop from the previous fiscal year.
There are other department decreases as well. The public works ($376,192) budget reflects a .33-percent decrease and the cost of benefits and insurance ($670,681) dropped by 2.27 percent.
In contrast, the cost of total government ($8852,100) will rise by 8 percent; total public safety ($1,011,843), which includes the police department ($509,494), the fire department ($101,000) and the ambulance service ($109,343) will rise by 7 percent; and total debt service ($440,827) will rise by a whopping 25 percent.
The Martha's Vineyard Commission assessment ($144,833) will rise by 6 percent.
Get numbers up
Historically, 911 operators directing emergency service personnel to a call, often needed to rely on the caller's and the responder's familiarity with local roads and dwellings. The enhanced 911 system automatically provides operators with a map and lot number when a call comes in, but requires clearly identifiable road signs and house markings.
An article submitted by the fire chief asks voters to improve public safety and adopt a bylaw that would require that all roads have signs and all houses have proper assigned numbers "located so emergency vehicles and personnel can visually see them."
Another bylaw request pertains to so-called trouble alarms. If approved, the owner of a building or residence with a burglar alarm or fire alarm would be allowed two false alarms per calendar year, per building. Anymore than that and the town, which relies on volunteer firefighters, would charge the owner $100 for the first false alarm over the limit and $150 for every subsequent false alarm.
The owner would get a break in the event a false alarm is caused by "thunder storms, hurricanes, other violent acts of nature, certain power outages and other valid situations," as determined by the fire chief or police chief.
Article 14 is a request to take $55,000 from a community preservation account (CPA) to fund a town year-round rental assistance program administered by the Dukes County Regional Housing Authority.
The Rental Conversion Program is administered by the Dukes County Regional Housing Authority and is funded by the Island Affordable Housing Fund. The program is designed to provide year-round rentals by providing property owners a choice of incentives in exchange for year-round rental agreements.
Island residents making less than 120 percent of median income for the area are eligible for rental assistance. The
tenant's portion of the rent is determined by the household income and is paid directly to the property owners; the balance of the rent is paid to the property owners by the housing authority.
According to Zelda Gamson, a member of the housing committee, in 2005 the program provided four recipients with monthly rent subsidies that ranged from $395 to $875 for a total of $36,000. She said the money would be used to increase the program for several more renters.
Voter approval will also be sought to spend $15,000 in CPA money to restore historic stonewalls along public roads in town.
Voters will be asked to adopt a non-binding resolution taken up in other towns asking if they are in favor of protecting water quality, and if that is the case, to give "careful consideration to the upcoming results of the Massachusetts Estuary Project, and consider all credible recommendations." The goal is to protect Island ponds, bays, and drinking water from nitrogen and other pollutants, and to work with other island towns to preserve and restore water quality.
The language of the Chilmark resolution differs from an almost identical article presented to voters in other Island towns. At the request of Selectman Riggs Parker the phrase "will support all credible recommendations" was changed to "will consider." Mr. Parker said he requested the change, which was agreed to by his fellow selectmen, because he did not think the town should make a commitment without first discussing the results of the study.
Voters will be asked to help defray the $750,000 the town planned to borrow to repair the West Dock by approving a list of appropriations and transfers from unused accounts totaling $200,000, bringing the amount needed to borrow to $550,000.
The roads would also get some attention if voters approve spending $120,000 on resurfacing and other road repairs.
In other business, voters will be asked to spend $5,000 on Chilmark Community Center maintenance; place $40,000 in a reserve fund administered by the finance advisory committee; add a total of $75,000 to the general stabilization fund; add $30,000 to the fire department stabilization fund; pay $5,000, half the cost, to apply an acoustic ceiling treatment at the Community Center; spend $8,000 to upgrade the town's computer system and software; spend $13,750 as part of the town's second year cost to enroll the Tisbury Great Pond in the Massachusetts Estuaries Project; and give $1,500 to the Martha's Vineyard Cultural Council to supplement state funding.