Edgartown anticipates near $1 million spike in school costs

— File photo by Ralph Stewart

A double whammy in school assessments is expected to add almost $1 million to the Edgartown budget in the next fiscal year, town administrator Pam Dolby told selectmen at their Monday meeting.

Ms. Dolby said the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School assessment to Edgartown will increase by a minimum of $600,000. She expects that figure will be higher, because it does not include wage increases for teachers, which are still being negotiated.

The regional high school budget assessment will rise substantially because of a quirk in population. Edgartown will send 194 students to the high school this year, 16 more than last year.

Ms. Dolby also advised the board that she expects a minimum increase of $300,000 in the Edgartown School operating budget. She also expects that number to increase, once salary negotiations are complete. School officials expect an increase of 24 students enrolled at the elementary school

“Keeping that in mind, and looking to the future, I’ve been dealing with the other departments, cutting where I can,” Ms. Dolby told selectmen. “We’re going to have to come up with this money. It’s really difficult to have this huge number looming out there, and we don’t know what it is.”

“Every other department is pretty much level funded, except for salaries,” Ms. Dolby said. “Everyone has been very careful, as they always are. It’s all the departments that are out of our control that spend all our money.”

Also drawing the selectmen’s attention was a preliminary budget from the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC), which sets its assessment to Edgartown next year at an estimated $336,000, up from $298,000 in the current fiscal year, an increase of 13 percent.

Ms. Dolby told selectmen that the financial advisory committee and the personnel committee have agreed to figure a 2 percent cost of living increase for town employees into the 2014 budget, which is subject to town meeting approval.

Also Monday, selectmen heard a report from T.J. Hegarty, director of the Dukes County Integrated Pest Management program.

“The program has had an incredible year, with incredible revenues, we exceeded our revenue projections,” Mr. Hegarty said. “This year we’re kind of flat, moderate, but we’re plugging along.”

Chairman Michael Donaroma said the town received requests to remove skunks through the county program.

The county pest control service covers insects, rats, mice, moles, and voles and provides no-cost education and consultation on bats and mammals such as skunks and raccoons, but it does not offer eradication service for those animals.

Although Mr. Hegarty is licensed to trap and dispose of raccoons and skunks, the county does not provide those services to generate additional revenue. Mr. Hegarty provides those services privately, as part of an agreement that originated with former county manager Carol Borer.

“It would be cost prohibitive to have taxpayers foot that bill,” Mr. Hegarty said.

This fiscal year, Edgartown appropriated $18,158 to pay the town’s share of the county pest control department. That number was on top of the annual county assessment.

Selectmen also approved a trial of energy efficient lighting systems for ten street lights. The Cape Light Compact will install the LED bulb arrays in five lights on Pease’s Point Way between the monument and the fire station. Another five lights will be installed on Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road between the Square Rigger Restaurant and the Animal Shelter of Martha’s Vineyard.

“That’s the trial run for the public to view and comment on,” highway superintendent Stuart Fuller said. “In theory these will last 20 years. It will provide the equivalent light.” He said the town now spends about $30,000 annually on electricity to power the town’s 300 street lights.

In other action, selectmen reappointed James Joyce as their representative to the MVC; approved an NSTAR request to remove poles and put electric utility lines underground on a short stretch of Katama Road between Metell Way and Knoll Drive; and approved renewal of food, beverage, and entertainment licenses for nearly all Edgartown bars and restaurants.