Chilmark FinCom balks at MVC budget increase

The Martha's Vineyard Commission offices are in Oak Bluffs. — File photo by Martha's Vineyard Times

The Chilmark selectmen have asked to meet with representatives of the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) following a vote by the town’s finance advisory committee (FinCom) not to recommend the commission budget that voters will confront at annual town meeting on April 28. Selectmen are set to approve the annual town meeting warrant on March 3.

“It is the feeling of the finance advisory committee that the budget and its presentation reflect a lack of clear management, focus and prioritization,” finance committee members said in a letter dated February 25.

On January 23, the MVC voted 13-1 to approve a $1,455,478 operating budget for the 2015 fiscal year (FY) that begins on July 1, 2014, a ten percent increase over the previous year. Only commissioner Josh Goldstein of Tisbury voted no.

The budget increase will be reflected in the MVC assessment that Chilmark taxpayers will confront at annual town meeting this spring as a line item. Town assessments are based on property tax valuation. All seven towns in Dukes County, which includes Gosnold, share the cost of planning, according to their relative property valuation.

Edgartown will once again pay the lion’s share, $384,043, compared to $336,333 this year. Chilmark will pay $176,600 compared to $154,661 in FY14, almost a $22,000 increase.

“As you are aware, towns in Massachusetts are required to keep their annual assessment of taxes below 2.5 percent unless the voters approve an override question for the increase,” the finance committee said. “It is difficult to keep this increase under 2.5 percent when the cost of services can increase at a higher rate due to conditions such as labor or economic conditions.

“For Chilmark, our entire budget was up 2.3 percent (a reduction over the past 3 years) once the regional services of education and planning were backed out. With the schools and MV Commission included, we are up 6.43 percent.”

Referring to the town’s assessment, the FinCom noted, “The MV Commission was up 14.19 percent over last year, and an average of 13.26 percent over the past 3 years.”

Salaries and employee benefits that include the cost of funding retirement benefits will lay claim to the largest share of the MVC budget. Costs increased by $54,469 over the current year, or just over 5 percent, built on a 2.13 percent cost of living increase and a 2.40 percent merit adjustment.

Salaries for the MVC’s ten full-time employees will account for $771,266, an increase of $36,810. That is in addition to $140,571 in health and disability insurance and $133,547 in pension costs.

The FinCom’s objection may be moot. Once approved by the MVC, towns are legally obligated to pay the assessment.