Oak Bluffs voters approve budget on second night, spending $18 million
Residents who reappeared for the second night of the Oak Bluffs town meeting Wednesday passed an $18 million town-operating budget and restored money to the Oak Bluffs School budget. Town moderator David Richardson, who graciously accepted a pair of his wife's reading glasses in order to properly comprehend the warrant, kept the 145 voters in check Wednesday night, halting discussion when it became repetitive and swiftly moving the group through humdrum articles.
The first article up for discussion Wednesday was the town-operating budget, which totaled $18,163,788. Line items that troubled voters were the salaries for the town accountant and finance director, $14,000 for hazardous waste disposal by the board of health, and various items titled "other charges and expenses."
On a motion by school committee member Priscilla Sylvia, voters agreed to restore $137,957 to the Oak Bluffs School budget. It was the exact amount cut by the finance committee in order to balance the operating budget.
A vote to reject the regional high school assessment figure Tuesday night, in favor of the state's so-called statutory formula, saved the town approximately $400,000. As a result, the town did not exceed the levy limit by restoring money to the Oak Bluffs School budget.
The school line item was the only one that changed, and two hours after the discussion began, the town passed the budget in its entirety.
In other articles, voters agreed to spend the ferry fees for police expenses, and expanded the Wireless Communication Overlay District to include properties near the high school.
On Tuesday night, Oak Bluffs wastewater facilities manager Joe Alosso withdrew the warrant article that would have given the wastewater commission the power to hire its own staff. Mr. Alosso alerted the voters on the town meeting floor that he would be removing that article, and indefinitely postponing two others.
Mr. Alosso had previously explained the need to contract directly with part-time employees in order to spare full-time employees from being on call nights and weekends. Mr. Alosso said he then learned that since the part-time employees work fewer than 20 hours a week and don't receive benefits, they fall under the authority of the personnel committee, and don't need contracts.
In a wastewater article that voters did get a chance to weigh in on, they rejected a proposal to begin the design and engineering of a small regional wastewater plant at the high school. Mr. Alosso said the separate entities, including the YMCA, Community Services and resident homesite committee, now have to consider other options.
"What I didn't get across is that there will be a treatment plant at the school. That is going to happen one way or another because that's mandated by the state," Mr. Alosso said Monday. "It just seems to make more sense to me to have one treatment plant instead of one at the school and one at the YMCA."
Mr. Alosso said he was disappointed that the other organizations did not support the article more vigorously.
"I think the neighbors would be much better served with one treatment plant that's being professionally run than to have a series of smaller treatment plants that don't have the expertise to handle them and manage them and run them," he said.