County charges change with land values
Island taxpayers in Aquinnah and Chilmark will pay less for county government in fiscal 2008. Their counterparts in West Tisbury, Edgartown, Oak Bluffs and Tisbury will pay more.
For example, Chilmark will save $20,572, while Edgartown will pay an additional $17,646 and Tisbury $13,441 for county services
That news is embedded in the $4,783,215 Dukes County budget for FY08 that the county manager presented and the county commissioners approved last week.
The seven towns of Dukes County, which includes Gosnold, pay 16.5 percent of the county's operating budget through annual assessments.
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. (The cherry sheet, an accounting by the state of grants and charges to each town in the Commonwealth, gets its name from the pinkish paper on which it's printed.) Taxpayers must rely first on the county commissioners to exercise fiscal oversight and lastly on the members of the county's finance advisory board, which includes one selectman from each town.
The assessments provide the major source of revenue available to the county commissioners. The Martha's Vineyard Airport, which by statute is under the control of the appointed airport commission and its professional airport manager, represents more than half the county budget. State and federal regulations prohibit any use of airport revenue for non-airport related uses.
This year, as they have done historically, the county commissioners, who are restricted by Proposition 2.5, increased the assessments by 2.5 percent.
The new increases and decreases in town assessments are based on recent computations by the state Department of Revenue, based on changes in the total valuation of property in each town.
As a result the change in assessments from FY 2007 to 2008 for the seven towns that make up the county will be the following: Aquinnah, $28,039 to $26,046; Chilmark $147,764 to $127,192; Edgartown, $252,801 to $270,447; Oak Bluffs, $117,499 to $122,417; Tisbury, $106,372 to $119,813; West Tisbury, $108,152 to $111,999; and Gosnold, $8,901 to $10,852.
The state formula that resulted in a change in the county assessments also resulted in a change in the weighted vote assigned to each member of the finance advisory board.
Edgartown holds the largest share, 34.29, followed by Chilmark, 16.12; Oak Bluffs, 15.52; Tisbury, 15.19; West Tisbury, 14.20; Aquinnah, 3.30; and Gosnold, 1.38. Teamed up, Edgartown and Chilmark (50.41 combined) hold a majority vote.
Although the fiscal year (FY) began on July 1, the
county can continue to operate based on the FY 2007 budget.
The county finance advisory board must still approve the budget, which is then sent to the state's County Finance Review Board for final approval.
Taxpayers get a crack at the budget when the finance advisory board holds its required public hearing at 5:30 pm on Thursday, August 9, at the County Administration Building in Edgartown. (The budget summary is available here)
The budget Mr. Davis initially presented to the commissioners included cuts in the county rodent control department, engineering department, health council, and the county manager's salary.
The FY 2008 budget they approved includes revised revenue projections in both expenses and revenue.