Tisbury's $18 million budget means overrides
Tisbury town officials anticipate a crowded and lengthy annual town meeting at 7:30 pm on April 10 in the Tisbury School gymnasium. Issues predicted to draw a larger than usual voter turnout include a proposal that would allow Tisbury's selectmen to undertake the legislative process to put the question of beer and wine sales on a town election ballot, and a request to spend $1.6 million to purchase property for a new emergency services facility.
Included in the 35 warrant articles are three debt exclusion and 11 capital spending articles requiring proposition 2.5 override ballot questions. The town's proposed fiscal year (FY) 2008 operating budget represents a 5.15-percent increase, or $903,154, over FY 2007.
With taxes expected to cover about $16.6 million of the operating budget, for the first time in several years, Tisbury will be approaching its levy limit. To avoid using up all of the unreserved fund balance, or "free cash," the Tisbury Finance and Advisory Committee (FinCom) recommended that the selectmen place all capital requests over $10,000 into override articles.
About $200,000 to $500,000 will be set aside in free cash to cover a possible increase in Tisbury's assessment for the regional high school if Island towns do not agree to stick with the existing regional per-pupil assessment formula.
As a result, voters will be asked to approve about $3.1 million in capital requests. Included in that amount is $1.9 million in spending requests that will go on debt overrides and $491,081 on capital overrides. On April 24, Tisbury voters will go to the polls to vote on 14 proposition 2.5 override ballot questions and to elect town officers.
How it adds up
The largest shares of Tisbury's FY 2008 $18.4 million operating budget are devoted to education, employee benefits, and public safety.
Educating approximately 308 students at Tisbury School (based on the 2006/2007 school census) will cost $4.53 million this year. Tisbury's assessment for 182 students at the regional high school increased from $2.49 million to $2.56 million.
The regional high school committee voted in March to continue using the Island's existing regional assessment formula based on a per-pupil cost, instead of the state's statutory formula, based on a town's wealth calculated on equalized property valuation and total income. However, all of the Island towns must be unanimous in approving their school budgets based on that formula.
Since many in Oak Bluffs already have indicated their support for the state formula, which would decrease their town's assessment by $413,000 and increase Tisbury's by $221,000, Tisbury leaders plan to set aside some free cash to cover the difference if needed.
Employee benefits and costs make up the next biggest budget items. In FY 2008 full-time town managerial and professional employees will receive a 3.5-percent wage increase. Seasonal employee minimum wages will increase from $7.23 an hour to $8 this year, and maximum wages from $9.58 to $10.35. The town's share of group insurance, including MediCare and health and life insurance, comes to $2.78 million, up by about 8.4 percent. The biggest jump is in health and life insurance, from $2.18 million to $2.38 million.
Under the public safety heading, police, fire, ambulance/EMT, and emergency management services add up to $1,676,810. Personnel needs and contractual obligations for salaries and benefits account for most of the increased costs.
The police department budget rose by 6.7 percent to $1,256,000, the ambulance/EMT budget by 7.4 percent to $266,648, and the fire department budget by 17.8 percent to $149,000. In addition to his request to make the fire chief's job a full-time position, fire chief John Schilling proposed covering time off on a per shift basis and compensating an individual in the department who would be on call on the basis of $100 per shift. The total shifts budgeted out for the year would equal $19,600.
Above and beyond
Tisbury voters will consider 14 proposition 2.5 override questions at town meeting and on the town ballot, all relating to capital projects or debt, that will result in temporary tax increases. If all of the ballot questions are approved, the impact on the FY 2008 tax rate would be about 20 cents per $1,000 of property value. The extra tax would amount to about $160, based on the value of an average home in Tisbury at $800,000, according to treasurer and tax collector Tim McLean.
Three of the ballot override questions involve borrowing articles, which would not affect the tax rate this fiscal year but would become part of the debt budget in FY 2009. One concerns a bond for $1.65 million to acquire property for the site of a new emergency services facility on State Road next to Oak Grove cemetery, the second for $135,000 to purchase and equip a new ambulance, and the third for $150,000 to replace the roof on the Tisbury School gymnasium.
Override spending requests include $100,000 for reconstructing William Street from Church Street to Woodlawn Ave.; $70,000 to repair and paint the exterior of the Tisbury Police Station; $50,000 to fund engineering, surveying, and legal expenses for a connector road between Edgartown-Vineyard Haven and State roads; $50,000 to replace sidewalks in the William Street Historic District; $40,000 and $25,000 to dredge the Tashmoo channel and Vineyard Haven inner harbor, respectively.
Voters also will be asked whether the fire chief's job should be made a full-time position, at an annual salary of $52,805. Since the fire chief's $17,500 salary already is included in the department's budget, the $35,305 difference appears in an override.
Subjects of debate
Two articles predicted to generate plenty of discussion are one concerning a home rule petition process leading to licenses for beer and wine sales, and another for a property purchase for a proposed emergency services facility.
Article 27 asks voters to allow the town of Tisbury to petition the legislature to allow beer or wine sales in restaurants. If voters agree, the selectmen will file a Home Rule petition requesting special legislation for an act authorizing them to grant licenses for beer and wine sales in restaurants.
If approved by the legislature, the act would come back for approval by Tisbury voters as a ballot question at the next annual town election in April 2008. At that time, voters will have the opportunity to vote yes or no on the actual question of allowing beer and wine licenses.
A set of draft regulations proposed by the selectmen stipulate the sales of beer and wine would be limited to consumption with meals only, served to patrons seated at a dining table in licensed eating establishments with a seating capacity of no less than 30. No bars or package stores would be allowed.
Article 21 asks voters to approve borrowing $1.65 million to purchase five parcels of land totaling about 1.5 acres on State Road next to the Oak Grove cemetery as the site for a new fire station, ambulance/EMT service, and emergency management services facility. A new emergency services building is projected to cost $3.3 to $4.7 million.
More on the floor
At a selectmen's meeting in February, FinCom chairman Muriel Mill warned town department heads that her committee would be tightening up on requests for free cash in FY 2008.
Although the FinCom and selectmen agreed that $10,000 would be the trigger for override articles, they had to make a few exceptions for absolute necessities, such as $20,000 to repair the Tisbury School fire alarm system as soon as possible, and $30,000 to fund the Board of Assessors property revaluations required this year.
The annual meeting warrant also includes 15 capital requests totaling about $124,000 for funds from the unreserved fund balance. The requests include $6,000 to open the library for four hours on 21 Sundays from Nov. 1-April 1; and $10,000 for a two-year stipend for a municipal hearing officer.
The FinCom also does not recommend supporting a petition for creating an Island-wide energy district of critical planning concern because of a lack of information about the process, proposed regulations, and the costs involved.
Voters also will be asked to spend $97,200 in passenger ferry embarkation fee revenues. Spending requests include $30,000 to purchase and equip one new police department vehicle, $5,000 for Homeland Security training and $35,000 to pave and re-stripe Water Street.
Voters will be asked to approve $531,000 in funding recommendations from the Community Preservation Committee for providing design services for a playground on Lake Street, developing a preservation plan for the Vineyard Playhouse, preserving and restoring the Tashmoo Spring Building, funding four Island Affordable Housing units on State Road, and renovating the Tisbury Amphitheatre.
Tisbury town officials have made contingency plans to handle voter overflow. The Tisbury School gymnasium seats 425, and if needed, the band room will be equipped with speakers and a television monitor to accommodate up to 100 additional voters.