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Town meeting

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Voters said yes to a $25.7 million budget and all warrant articles.

Oak Bluffs town administrator Robert Whritenour provided voters with an overview of the town's improved finances.

Oak Bluffs voters were in a generous mood at annual town meeting on Tuesday night as they approved a proposed $25.7 million operating budget for the 2015 fiscal year (FY15) and the new town hall and new EMS/fire station, which will cost $6,830,000 and $8,288,000, respectively.

A total of 282 people, representing 7.7 percent of the towns 3,655 eligible voters, attended the annual town meeting at the Performing Arts Center at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School.

Money talks

Voter Jason Mallory speaks to the issue from town meeting floor.

Voter Jason Mallory speaks to the issue from town meeting floor. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

At the start, town administrator Robert Whritenour presented an upbeat picture of town finances. “I think we’ve made great progress improving the town’s finances and we stand before you today saying we’ve brought them full circle into the positive,” he said. Underscoring the dramatic turnaround in town finances, Mr. Whritenour showed the general fund balance in 2011 was minus $434,000, and as of last July, it was $1.5 million in the black. He received a hearty round of applause when he stated that town’s free cash, which was at minus $900,000 in 2011, was certified this year at $961,000.

“We’re not out of the woods yet, even though we’ve made a lot of progress,” he said as the applause died down. Mr. Whritenour then laid the groundwork for the Proposition 2.5 override which will be decided at town election Thursday.

Voters go to the polls today to decide four races and three money questions that include funding for the fire station and town hall. Election results are available at mvtimes.com.

He said town education costs, due in large part to a combined net increase of 22 Oak Bluffs students at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School necessitated the $600,000 override. He added that additional cuts in the town budget were not an option to avoid it. “In getting to these numbers, we’ve had to bring most of the town departments to their knees,” he said. “They’ve managed their departments with cuts after cuts they can’t absorb additional cuts to make up for that $600,000 without damages to town services.”

Town leaders plan to use $250,000 in free cash to reduce the amount needed to $350,000, but decided to make no change on the $600,00 ballot amount in order to keep a $250,000 buffer against any surprise education expenses in FY16.

Seats to spare: 282 people attended the Oak Bluffs town meeting.

Seats to spare: 282 people attended the Oak Bluffs town meeting. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

Finance committee chairman Steve Auerbach said many people have asked him why the $961,000 in free cash couldn’t be used to cover the deficit. “Free cash might not be there next year, while the costs associated with the high school and special education programs will be there year after year,” he said. “Free ash comes from judicious use of funds. It’s generally thought best for one time expenditures.”

Mr. Whritenour said the override would cost taxpayers .037 cents per $1000 of assessed property value or $118.93 for a house worth $500,000.

 Voting the warrant

Although town officials expected the annual meeting to be a two-night affair, moderator Jack Law kept the proceedings moving at a brisk pace, but only after Article 1, the town operating budget, was approved. That bit of work took nearly two hours of debate.

The discussion got off to a stumbling start, with a few attendees, clearly piqued about the override discussion, challenging line item after line item until Thad Hashbarger took the microphone.

“These line items have been discussed in detail in committee meetings and open meetings. You’ve had your chance to speak out. Now save the rest of us from having to hear every line item and let’s get on with it,” he said to a round of applause.

Town moderator Jack Law kept the meeting moving.

Town moderator Jack Law kept the meeting moving. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

The ensuing discussion included questions about the transparency of the ambulance reserve fund, the necessity of hiring support staff, the ambiguity in various line items, and additional digressions about the override. In the end, the proposed FY 15 budget of $25,717,644 was approved at a slightly higher $25,726,354.

The $8,710 increase was a pay raise for town clerk Laura Johnston. Although Ms. Johnston took over for retiring town clerk Deborah Radcliffe in June 2013, her salary had not been adjusted. Since she is an elected official, the soft-spoken Ms. Johnston had to ask town voters to raise her salary to the amount they approved at last year’s town meeting. Voters approved enthusiastically.

“I love this town,” Ms. Johnston said after the meeting. “It was a very hard thing for me to get up there, but the response was very heartwarming.”

 Big ticket items

The most anticipated votes of the night were the approvals to spend $6.9 million on a new town hall and $8.3 million on a new Fire/EMS station. Both projects had to be approved by a two thirds vote.

“We need to replace these buildings, folks,” said Bill McGrath, chairman of the capital improvements committee, as he began a powerpoint presentation. “There’s a website up and running that says why we need to do these projects,” he said referring to the dedicated website hosted on the Oak Bluffs town website, oakbluffsma.gov. “It’s an excellent website and it’s interactive, so you can ask questions and get answers.”

Selectmen Walter Vail, Mike Santoro, and Kathy Burton voted in favor of the new fire house.

Selectmen Walter Vail, Mike Santoro, and Kathy Burton voted in favor of the new fire house. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

Addressing the affordability of the new buildings, Mr. McGrath reiterated a point that has been made many times in open town meetings — since the debt for the Oak Bluffs school and library are declining, the new buildings will have minimal impact on the existing tax rate. Additionally, he said by using bond anticipation notes, the town can borrow money now and delay payment of principal and interest for several years.

Mr. McGrath stressed that delaying the projects would only cost taxpayers more money in the long run. He noted that the present low interest rates are sure to rise at some point, and each

.25 percent increase in interest would add $136,000 to the total of the projects. “If the project costs increase 2.5 percent per year, the fire station will go from $8.3 million to $8.9 million,” he said. “[If] we delay, we add to the cost and we don’t have the buildings.”

Mr. McGrath that said Keenan and Kenny architects and Daedalus Projects, overseers of both buildings, have a reputation of coming in on time and under budget. The crowd expressed widespread approval when he noted this was the same team that worked on the new West Tisbury police station.

“If we’re approved tonight, we can to to bid and start construction in September and in April 2016, we’ll have a new fire station and town hall.” Mr. McGrath said, adding that all costs are locked in once the project moves forward.

Mr. McGrath said the total cost of both buildings for a house worth $500,000 will be $3740.60 over 18 years.

“That’s a pretty nice price for 50 year buildings,” he said.

Karen Achille, former chairman of the Oak Bluffs library building committee, made an especially compelling argument for the new buildings. “There’s no one who would say bringing the library into the 21st century has not enhanced our town,” she said to widespread agreement. “If we had waited to build the library for two more years, it would have cost an additional three to four million dollars. I encourage you to vote yes.”

In the end, the new fire/EMS station and town hall were approved overwhelmingly in voice votes.

After the expenditures for the firehouse and town hall were given the thumbs up, warrant items were approved in rapid succession as Mr. Law read the articles at an auctioneer’s pace.

Not so big ticket items

Taxpayers approved five transfers from the ambulance reserve fund to pay for vehicles and equipment for the police and EMS/fire department: $220,000 for a new ambulance, $52,000 for a new fire department command vehicle, $28,000 for a life raft and new fire pump on the town’s emergency management boat, $70,000 for a new marked police SUV and animal control vehicle, and $33,690 for new body armor, portable radios, and bicycles for the police. The Finance and Advisory Board (FinCom) recommended removing the expenditure of $4,000 for three new bicycles. Chief Erik Blake spoke to defend the expenditure, saying each bicycle cost $989 and additional equipment added to the cost. The FinCom recommendation was put to a voice vote, and with only five “no” votes, the police got their new bicycles.

In an article that underscores the town’s improving financial health, voters approved a request to transfer $250,000 of free cash to the stabilization fund, or rainy day fund, which would bring the fund total to $1,036,476.90, close to the 5 percent of the town’s operating budget, the goal set by town administrator Robert Whritenour three years ago.

Voters approved spending $139,000 in free cash to purchase two pickup trucks and one dump truck for the highway department, $37,000 for the purchase and installation of new financial software in town hall.

The FinCom only voted against one item on the warrant, a request from the police department for $15,000 in free cash to pay for repairs to the station break room. This was the closest vote of the night. After an inconclusive voice vote, the measure was approved by a standing vote of 121 to 56.

Four warrant articles requesting transfers from the Wastewater Retained Earnings fund were approved for a new truck for the wastewater commission ($40,000), construction of a new garage for the department ($125,000), a study to determine if upgrades are needed to the system which is “operating closer to capacity than expected,” according to the executive summary ($50,000), and to improve and relocate electrical and water equipment to prevent damage in a major storm ($62,500).

Taxpayers approved expenditures for $746,664 of Community Preservation Act funds (CPA) on 11 projects. Arguments were made against an $18,000 expenditure for restoration of Trinity Church stained glass windows and $111,600 to the town of Aquinnah to move the Gay Head Lighthouse. Voice votes were taken for both, and a vote count was taken for the Trinity Church expenditure, and both passed in the end.

Adult education (ACE MV) got a boost from Oak Bluffs taxpayers to the tune of $19,170. Voters also consented for the town to take possession of East Chop bluff from the East Chop association, in order to help the crumbling corniche qualify for federal funding, which it did not as a privately owned entity.

The town adopted an Island-wide article that will create one set of lawn fertilizer regulations to protect groundwater and estuaries from the effects of nitrogen and phosphorus runoff, through the creation of a district of critical planning concern (DCPC) known as the Martha’s Vineyard Lawn Fertilizer Control district.

A resounding voice vote also approved a resolution in favor of shutting down the Pilgrim nuclear power plant in Plymouth.

Educator honored

Town meeting also took a moment to thank Priscilla Sylvia for her 35 years of teaching at the Oak Bluffs school and 12 years of service on the Oak Bluffs school committee. Ms. Sylvia was given a standing ovation as Oak Bluffs school principal Richie Smith presented her with a bouquet of flowers. “For some of you, the name Priscilla Sylvia sends trepidation and fear,” he joked. “But it’s not her formidable reputation, it’s her legacy we honor tonight.”

“Priscilla came to the Oak Bluffs school in 1965. The lady teachers were not paid as much as the male teachers and so that’s where her go-getting started here.” Mr. Smith said the Priscilla Sylvia greenhouse, which started at the old Oak Bluffs school and is actively used at the current Oak Bluffs school, will be a part of her legacy, along with the generations of Oak Bluffs students she’s taught over the years.”

“And I’ve loved it all,” Ms. Sylvia said, to another standing ovation.

Town clerk Laura Johnston also feted retired town clerk Deborah Radcliffe, “I learned so much in my 18 years as your assistant. I’ve seen her go above and beyond many times for the voters and residents of our town.”

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Voters approved a $30.6 million budget and all but one article in under three hours.

Edgartown voters gathered in the Old Whaling Church were in an approving mood.

Edgartown voters moved swiftly and for the most part efficiently through special and annual town-meeting warrants Tuesday. Gathered in the Old Whaling Church, voters approved a $30,622,163 operating budget for fiscal 2015, which begins on July 1, and all but one article on the annual town meeting warrant.

Voters agreed to help fund regional efforts to save the Gay Head Light and ACE MV, a continuing education program. And they agreed to impose new regulations on fertilizer use as part of an Island-wide effort.

Frustrated by the meeting hall’s poor acoustics, voters continually urged town officials seated at the head of the room to use the microphone.

A total of 190 voters, or 5.8 percent of the town’s 3,262 registered voters, attended to the town’s business.

“It was a very small turnout for town meeting,” Edgartown clerk Wanda Williams told The Times. “There must have been more interesting things on TV, like the Sox game.”

The town got down to business with a special town meeting with a proposal to change the status of the job of town clerk from elected to appointed. The change was approved, 83-66.

On to the annual

Town poet laureate and dock builder Steve Ewing opened the annual meeting by reciting “Town Memories,” in which he recounted life “back in the day,” in and around Edgartown.

Following protracted applause, longtime moderator Philip “Jeff” Norton, who’s held the gavel since back in the day himself, turned the voters’ attention to the annual town meeting.

Voters turned down only one article on the 66-article warrant, a request to appropriate $250,000 for the Edgartown Affordable Housing Committee’s Meshacket Road Project. At issue was progress to date and details on a project that few voters knew much about.

Tim Rush, a member of the housing committee, explained that at last year’s town meeting the committee requested $250,000 to begin the project. Voters approved $250,000 for clearing and utility work on the nine-acre parcel off Meshacket Road but ran into hurdles associated with protected moth species.

“What we’re looking for is we’re trying to get things back on track,” Mr. Rush said.

“This money is going to help keep the process moving forward to accomplish the building on that piece of property, which is what we set it aside for,” selectman Margaret Serpa said.

Speaking to the article, Jim Athearn, owner of Morning Glory Farm which abuts the property, said the housing group had not presented a plan that preserved open space nor consulted adequately with the neighbors about the proposed project.

In a standing vote, the article was defeated by a vote of 86-68.

Yes to DCPC

Voters approved regulations to create a district of critical planning concern (DCPC), known as the Martha’s Vineyard Lawn Fertilizer Control district, which will overlay the entire Island. But they did so only after an amendment to delete an exemption for the application of fertilizer for agricultural or horticultural use.

Selectman Michael Donaroma, owner of a landscaping company and nursery that bears his name, said he supports the DCPC and asked that the article be amended to include horticultural use.

“I just don’t feel that agricultural and horticultural people like myself should be exempt,” Mr. Donaroma said.

The change to an article that is identical in language to one that appears on all town warrants created a wrinkle in the DCPC process.

Town counsel Ronald Rappaport explained that by amending the regulations, the article would likely need to go back to the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) for a conformance determination and to the board of health, also.

“It is possible that the Martha’s Vineyard Commission and the board of health would not approve this change, and if that’s the case we’re sort of in limbo because we would have a regulation that we voted but that they didn’t approve,” Mr. Rappaport said.

MVC senior planner Bill Veno said the amendment will not change the process. “I think the amendment you just approved won’t have any effect on the regulations of the bill,” Mr. Veno said.

The fertilizer measure, which claimed six pages of the 22-page warrant, will create a uniform set of regulations to protect water bodies from the effects of nitrogen and phosphorus runoff, through the creation of a district of critical planning concern (DCPC) known as the Island-wide Martha’s Vineyard Lawn Fertilizer Control District.

Voters happily granted $84,000 of free cash to police Chief Tony Bettencourt to purchase and equip two cruisers, as well as $50,000 for radios, cameras, and equipment he said he needed to get the job done.

Edgartown voters unanimously approved several bylaws, including zoning changes to add registered marijuana dispensaries (RMD) as a use allowed by special permit in the B-II Upper Main Street district, and to govern curb cuts and driveways in B-II districts.

Voters agreed with little discussion to approve several Community Preservation Act appropriations for a range of projects that include a $350,000 renovation of the town hall.

Voters said yes to contributing $149,704 to help relocate the Gay Head Lighthouse as part of a regional effort. The article passed with a small round of applause.

Another regional request for support netted ACE MV $27,765.

After nearly three hours, and with just two articles to go, including a request to fund pest management, one voter asked for the definition of a pest, as well as what means are used to trap pests. Town administrator Pamela Dolby responded by saying the traps referred to are used only by the school department and the harbormaster department, not by the town hall.

“You don’t think there’s any rats in town hall?” Mr. Norton quipped. “We should put it to a vote,” he said to a round of laughs and applause from voters.

The meeting concluded just after 10 pm.

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At annual town meeting Tuesday, voters narrowly rejected a request for money to design and permit dredging the scenic pond.

Flanked by West Tisbury town officials, moderator Pat Gregory led voters through the warrant.

Following nearly an hour of passionate debate at their annual town meeting Tuesday evening, West Tisbury voters narrowly defeated an article funding design and permitting in preparation for dredging Mill Pond. After moderator Pat Gregory declared a voice vote inconclusive, a show of hands defeated the article, 119-100.

Voters approved money for several projects outside of West Tisbury, including Little League fields, affordable housing, and preservation of the Gay Head Light.

They also gave a green light to measures affecting detached bedrooms, solar energy installations, and fertilizer use.

Judy Crawford, left, and Dan Cabot counted votes on Article 32, a request to begin the process to dredge Mill Pond.

Judy Crawford, left, and Dan Cabot counted votes on Article 32, a request to begin the process to dredge Mill Pond. — Photo by Steve Myrick

A total of 221 voters were officially counted as voters and began action on 43 warrant articles shortly after 7 pm. That represents nine percent of West Tisbury’s 2,446 registered voters. The meeting was adjourned at about 9:30 pm.

Town elections are scheduled for Thursday, April 10, but there are no contested races for town offices. Polls are open at the Public Safety Building on State Road from 12 noon to 8 pm.

Mill Pond battle

The carefully worded Mill Pond article asked voters to authorize spending $30,000 from Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds “for design and permitting in preparation for dredging to preserve Mill Pond.” Another $20,000 was pledged in private donations, to complete the $50,000 project. The warrant article also said the design and permitting process would be conducted in tandem with a watershed study approved at last year’s annual town meeting. Earlier in the meeting, voters agreed to spend an additional $15,000 to complete that watershed study, which is an assessment of all the water sources that feed into and drain out of Mill Pond, but does not cover the pond itself. The article said dredging would not proceed without a further vote of the town meeting.

Supporting the article, Anna Alley read a statement for the majority of the members of the town’s Mill Pond Committee, who stood to the side of the West Tisbury School gymnasium. The committee cited two previous studies as evidence that the Mill Pond is filling with sediment and being overtaken by invasive vegetation.

“I’m sure many of you saw the algae blooms last summer,” Ms. Alley said. “It was the worst I’ve ever seen it, and it will continue.”

She said private donors quickly gathered pledges to supplement the CPA funds for the design and permitting. “They need a signal from the town that we do intend to preserve the pond,” she said. “Please vote yes to preserve your pond.”

The Mill Pond issue has deeply divided town voters, and the chasm of public opinion was never better illustrated than the location of the seat committee member Kent Healy chose, all the way on the other side of the auditorium from his committee. Mr. Healy is caretaker of the Mill Pond Dam, a Mill Brook historian, and a respected civil engineer. Across the expanse of passionately committed voters, he offered a spirited dissent. Citing the same two studies, he said the pond is in good health and not getting shallower.

“Making the pond deeper by dredging would only increase leakage into the sand and gravel on the bottom of the pond,” Mr. Healey said. “Dredging is unnecessary to preserve the pond. Dredging would be a messy, expensive, and risky proposition.”

Nancy Dole, speaking for the West Tisbury Historic Commission, urged voters to approve the design and permitting. While expressing her respect for Mr. Healey, she said many disagree with his assessment of the pond’s health.

“Experts in the field don’t agree with him,” Ms. Dole said. “We hope the outcome will be a vote to move ahead. I’m not an engineer, I can’t tell how deep the pond is. But I do know that last summer it was covered with scum.”

Others thought the warrant article put the cart before the horse.

“It’s irresponsible to vote $50,000 for a project that we have not yet approved,” said Nancy Cabot. “If we approve the $50,000, it then becomes ammunition later on down the road, because we’ve already spent $50,000. I would rather the decision about dredging come first.”

The Mill Pond Committee has sparked passionate opposition, and several voters were not shy with their criticism.

“The dredging committee dug in its heels, and has refused to hear different points of view,” said Ebba Hierta. “The biggest whopper of all is that the Mill Pond is filling in. It’s not. The case for dredging does not hold water.”

The atmosphere was suspenseful as vote counters carefully recorded raised hands. When Mr. Gregory, the moderator, announced the tally, the meeting collectively exhaled with a mixture of surprise, disappointment, and relief.

A question of money

At the beginning of the meeting, voters unanimously approved the fiscal year 2015 town budget, after very brief discussion. The $15.9 million spending plan represents an increase of 7 percent over the previous year, according to town accountant Bruce Stone. Before the vote, he said the budget would result in a 6 percent increase in the tax levy, which would amount to a hike of about $160 on property assessed at $500,000.

The unusually large increase is the result of debt on the police station and library, increased operating and staffing costs for the new library, and a large increase in education costs.

Late in the meeting, voters approved using $435,000 from the town’s free cash account, to lessen the impact of the budget increases.

Out of town

West Tisbury voters authorized several substantial expenditures from CPA funds to pay for regional projects.

After much discussion, voters approved $65,000 in CPA funds to rehabilitate affordable housing at 14 Village Court in Tisbury.

“We thought it was a really good value for $65,000, if you think how much it costs to build a rental unit in town,” said Dale Julier, a member of the Community Preservation Committee.

Someone who lives or works in West Tisbury, and earns less than 60 percent of the area wide median income, will be given preference for one of six rental apartments in the building. The Island Housing Trust plans to purchase and fix up the property.

“It’s my understanding that the people who are currently living there will be displaced,” said voter Brian Smith. “We are spending taxpayer dollars to put people out of their homes.”

David Vignault, executive director of the Dukes County Regional Housing Authority, responded. The housing authority owns three other buildings in the complex and would manage the new affordable units. He said two current occupants of the building will qualify for the subsidized apartments and will stay. Others have found new homes, but some will be displaced.

“People are working where they can, and living where they have to,” Mr. Vignault said. “Folks are pretty desperate out there.”

Voters also authorized $80,738 in CPA funds to pay part of the cost of moving the Gay Head Lighthouse in Aquinnah, which is threatened by erosion. They also voted $25,000 in CPA funds to pay a share of the cost to build new baseball fields in Oak Bluffs, which will be used by Little League players from all Island towns.

An article asking voters to authorize $75,000 in CPA funds to replace a fence around the West Tisbury Cemetery drew substantial opposition. After voters challenged the moderator’s ruling on a voice vote, a show of hands resulted in approval of the article, by a margin of 108 to 102.

Land use

Voters approved two complex changes to zoning laws, including a measure limiting the size and design of detached bedrooms to 400 square feet with one lavatory. The measure prohibits a kitchen or cooking facilities.

They also approved a change in zoning laws to promote standards for placement, design, and construction of solar energy installations intended to address public safety, and minimize the impact on scenic, natural and historic resources.

The town meeting approved new regulations governing the use of lawn fertilizer to reduce nitrogen loading and improve water quality.

“It offers a fairly inexpensive way to get a handle on nitrogen,” said Brendan O’Neill, executive director of the Vineyard Conservation Society. “It sends the right message about this community’s determination to protect our waters, and will quite likely have the effect of reducing the price tag of dealing with the nitrogen problem going forward.”

In other action, the town meeting voted overwhelmingly to change the office of town treasurer from an elected position to an appointed position. The change is contingent on approval at the polls Thursday’s when voters choose town officers.

“Skipper’s” driving habits

One of the first articles before the town meeting provided a measure of comic relief. It asked voters for $33,200 to buy a new police cruiser. Police Chief Dan Rossi approached the microphone.

“I would like to make a motion to postpone the article for the new police cruiser indefinitely,” Chief Rossi said. “The cruiser that’s scheduled to go out of the rotation has close to 90,000 miles on it, but it’s mechanically sound, the body is in good shape. Mainly, Skipper drives it,” he said, referring to Sgt. Jeffrey “Skipper” Manter. “We all know how he drives.”

The motion got a hearty laugh from the crowd, who then voted unanimously to table the article.

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Voters have a lot to decide in West Tisbury.

West Tisbury voters will gather for annual town meeting at 7 pm, Tuesday, April 8, at the West Tisbury School to tackle a 43-article annual town meeting warrant and $15,870,727 operating budget for the fiscal year 2015 (FY15) which begins July 1, 2014, an increase of 7.3 percent over FY14.

Two days later, on Thursday April 10 voters go to the polls at the Public Safety Building on State Road to elect town officers. There are no contested races on the ballot.

Voters will be asked at the polls to change the job of town treasurer from elected to appointed. The question was placed on the ballot at the request of current treasurer Katherine Logue. “An appointed treasurer allows the town to choose a qualified applicant from a much larger, expanded pool of applicants because they don’t have to live in town,” Ms. Logue said.

Town budget up

The FY15 West Tisbury budget will increase by 7.3 percent, $1,083,691 over $14,787,036 in FY14. The largest contributors to the increased costs are the Up-Island regional school district (UIRSD), long-term debt service, and additional library operating costs.

The combined increase in these three areas is $944,806 or 13.3 percent over FY14. All other budget lines in the aggregate are up $138,885 or 1.8 percent over FY14.

The library operating budget will jump from $453,336 to $594,637. The increase will pay for additional staffing needs and expenses due to the increased size of the new building, according to library director Beth Kramer.

Spending under the total culture and recreation category will increase from $589,472 to $733,492.

Total education costs will increase from $8,499,872 to $8,907,505.

The UIRSD budget is up $542,626, or 9.3 per cent. A significant part of the school increase is due to additional special needs services shared with the other member towns, according to town accountant Bruce Stone.

The high school assessment will drop, from $2,674,288 to $2,539,295.

Police, fire, and ambulance services will all increase. Total public safety costs will increase from $1,749,269 to $1,883,147.

Total debt service will increase from $828,799 to $1,089,676.

Mr. Stone said the long-term debt service, up $260,878 or 31.5 percent will make payments for the new police station, the new public library construction, road work completed this past year and the town hall renovation project. FY15 will be the first year that $100,000 of the town hall project is not being paid from CPA funds. The original plan was that CPA would pay $100,000 for each of the first five years of the bonding that is ending at the end of FY14.

He said FY15 will be a bubble year for debt payments due to the town paying off the last $183,375 of the original public safety building construction costs.

“By using $435,000 of free cash to offset next year’s tax levy, I am projecting the actual property tax levy to be up a lesser amount of $773,433 or 6.0 percent, “ he said.

He said the increased town expenses will not require a proposition 2.5 override vote. “The town is still pretty far under its levy limit,” he said. “We have built up quite a bit of excess capacity the last several years and some of the items causing an increase in the budget this year are items the town voted to exclude from proposition 2.5 requirements in the past.”

Total general government hikes include the Martha’s Vineyard Commission assessment which will increase from $121,075 to $138,250 and total property insurance, from $65,100 to $87,000.

Total employee benefits, which include health insurance, will increase from $991,068 to $1,042,690.

Dredging up the past

The warrant includes 14 articles related to the expenditure of Community Preservation Act Funds (CPA) that total $545,127.

Voters will be asked to spend up to $30,000 from CPA funds for the design and permitting in preparation to dredge Mill Pond. The question is expected to generate debate.

Advocates of maintaining the scenic pond, which has accumulated a deep layer of silt, would increase the average depth of the shallow, murky artificial water body from 1.7 feet to four feet.

Advocates of removing the dam and allowing the stream to revert to its natural state point point to the health of the complex ecosystem and several native species, that include wild brook trout, that are at risk due to high water temperaturesand the harmful effects of numerous impoundments.

CPA funding comes from a surcharge of up to three percent on property taxes, plus a variable state match from real estate deed recording fees, to raise money for open space, historic preservation, affordable housing, and outdoor recreation.

Two CPA requests are to support regional projects. Voters will be asked to contribute $80,738 in CPA funds to support, along with the other Island towns, the restoration and renovation of the Gay Head Lighthouse and $25,000 to support the new little league field in Oak Bluffs.

Voters will also be asked to approve a total of $219,000 in three articles to support affordable housing initiatives, $12,000 for the field at the West Tisbury School, $75,000 to replace the town’s cemetery fence, $40,000 to support the acquisition of the Maley/Field Gallery property and $30,000 for repairs to the Old Mill building.

Voters will have plenty of reading to do when they get to articles dealing with regulating fertilizer and promoting solar energy both of which take up multiple pages.

An article that would regulate fertilizer use, which is identical to one that will be placed before voters in all six Island towns, would create one set of lawn fertilizer regulations to protect groundwater and estuaries from the effects of nitrogen and phosphorus runoff, through the creation of a district of critical planning concern (DCPC) known as the Martha’s Vineyard Lawn Fertilizer Control district, which would overlay the entire Island.

Prepared with input from the Martha’s Vineyard Commission with the goal of protecting local estuaries from pollutants, the regulations meet the requirements of a state law passed in 2012 that gave the Cape and the Islands leeway to pass their own stronger regulations.

The state regulations restrict the use of fertilizers to prevent phosphorus runoff into rivers and other water bodies. Phosphorus is a major fresh water pollutant. The use of nitrogen, a major pollutant of saltwater estuaries, not be addressed in the state law, is incorporated into the Island regulations.

The second lengthy article amends the zoning bylaw to create regulations and “standards for the placement, design, construction, operation, monitoring, modification and removal of solar energy installations” with the stated purpose of promoting the use of solar energy.

It will require adequate financial assurance for the eventual decommissioning of solar installations as well as making owners responsible for maintaining systems in good condition. Systems taller than 12 feet or larger than 1,500 square feet or installed in front yards will require special permits.

Voters will also be asked to approve a personnel bylaw to allow an increase of 1.5 percent in town wages and to approve $20,000 to hire a consultant to prepare a new classification and compensation plan in consultation with the personnel board.

Voters will be asked to spend $24,000 to pay for the assessors triennial certification of real estate values, $82,862 for road work that will be reimbursed by the state and the police department has requested $33,000 for a new vehicle.

In other articles the voters will be asked to contribute its share of proportionate costs with the other Island towns of $13,482 to fund the All Island School Committee’s contract for adult and community education, $31,342 for the Vineyard Health Care Access Program, $38,593 for the Dukes County Regional Housing Authority.