Edgartown faces $24M budget, 67 articles
Town leaders will present Edgartown voters with a fiscal year (FY) 2008 operating budget of almost $24 million and 67 warrant articles at the annual gathering in the Old Whaling Church on Main Street in Edgartown Tuesday evening.
A 17-article special town meeting called to dispense with current fiscal year housekeeping, mostly transfers and appropriations from so-called free cash, precedes the annual town meeting. The entire exercise in participatory democracy kicks off at 7:30 pm in a meeting room that could be judged to have the stateliest décor and hardest wooden seats on the Vineyard.
On Thursday voters go to the polls to elect town officers and vote on six capital outlay and two debt exclusion proposition 2.5 override ballot questions. There are no contests on the ballot.
The FY 2008 operating budget will increase by 5.4 percent, or $1,240,00 over FY 2007, according to a report by the town financial advisory committee (FinCom) included in the warrant booklet that will be available to voters.
The booklet also includes a report from town administrator Pamela Dolby who said that the town's finances continue to be sound, in terms of reserves at the start of FY 2007. One indication of the town's fiscal health is an article directing that $250,000 be placed in the stabilization fund. According to Ms. Dolby and the FinCom, a collective effort and cooperation from all departments was needed to keep the budget within the confines imposed by Prop. 2.5.
Voters will be presented with a FY 2008 operating budget of $23,958,202. The largest costs are associated with public safety, education, and employee benefits.
Voters will be asked to spend $3,331,840 under the heading of "protection of persons and property."
That category includes $2,090,925 for the police department; $292,191 for the fire department; $424,834 for the fire department ambulance; $85,302 for the animal control department; and $204,498 for the shellfish department.
Educating Edgartown's approximately 521 school children (based on the 2006/2007 school census) will cost taxpayers $8,164,722 next year. That includes a regional high school assessment that increased from $2,698,725 to $2,792,011. In total the school budget increased by $335,457 over FY 2007.
Employee benefits and wages continue to fuel budget increases. In FY 2008, full-time town employees will receive a 4.2-percent cost-of-living increase, the same increase received in FY 2007. Seasonal employees will see their wages rise by 3.2 percent.
The town's share of group insurance, including health, Medicare and life, will cost taxpayers $2,216,284. The largest hike is in the category of Medicare, which will jump from $99,000 to $128,664.
Voters will be asked to pay a share of several regional expenses. The Martha's Vineyard Commission assessment is $253,577. It will cost $30,000 to belong to the Martha's Vineyard Shellfish Group, an increase of $8,000 over the previous year.
Added to that
Voters will be asked to answer eight proposition 2.5 override questions at town meeting and at the polls. Unlike a general override, which raises the levy limit by which taxes are calculated and raises taxes permanently, all of the questions are related to capital projects or debt and result in temporary tax increases.
According to the warrant booklet, if all ballot questions are approved the impact on the tax rate in FY 2008 would be $16.80 per $100,000 of valuation.
Override spending questions include: $48,000 for a concrete boat ramp on Chappaquiddick; $221,488 to operate and maintain the dredge program; $61,921 for the town's share of the Dukes County Regional Housing Authority; $1,500,000 to extend the town's sewer system; $279,400 for a bike path on Meshacket Road; and $1,550,000 to purchase the Willey property adjacent to the town cemetery.
If all the questions are approved the total amount would be $2,345,809, a figure that does not include the money for the Willey property, which was previously borrowed.
Although voters will confront a lengthy list of warrant articles - 17 on the special and 67 on the annual warrant - there is no way of predicting which article will spur extensive debate on town meeting floor.
The special town meeting warrant contains a number of transfers requested by town officials. Voters will also be asked to transfer control of the old Edgartown School building from the school committee to the selectmen.
Money for repairs will figure large on the warrant. There is $5,250 for the police station ventilation system, $20,000 for mold removal and structural repairs in the library, and $15,000 to resurface two tennis courts.
Harbor officials want $12,000 to purchase two floating docks that would be added to the finger piers to help provide more space for local boaters.
Articles 4 through 12 on the annual warrant pertain to the classification of town employees, personnel bylaws and workplace policies, including the use of vacation time.
Articles 21 through 29 ask voters to spend community preservation fund money on a variety of purposes. Those requests include $250,000 for the restoration of the Edgartown Light House; $50,000 for a wooden walkway to the lighthouse; $300,000 for the Jenney Way affordable housing development; $15,000 of the installation of "Edgartown" lampposts in the Village Green Park; and $15,000 for a swing set and fountain.
One article that could provoke debate would, if approved, allow a member of a board to vote on a matter before the board due even if they have not attended every meeting, as long as certain conditions are met.
The police department will be asking voters to approve five money requests. Those include $7,000 for building maintenance and repairs; $6,000 for joint training programs; and $32,000 for a new police cruiser.
Edgartown voters spend plenty on shellfish. In addition to the budget and shellfish group assessment, voters will be asked to spend $10,000 for a quahog relay and $31,000 to fund various shellfish committee programs.
Voters will also be asked to spend on Edgartown waterways. The harbormaster needs $15,000 to maintain and replace spiles, tie-off stakes, floats and walkways and other equipment.
The one article not recommended by the financial advisory committee is a request, submitted by petition, for $279,400 to construct a bike path on Meshacket Road that will also appear as a Prop. 2.5 ballot question.
According to Ms. Dolby, a bike path has the support of town officials, but the timing is not right because there is still a good deal of preparatory work to be done.