Tisbury selectmen keep tax shift, buck scallop recommendation

Town employees attended the selectmen’s meeting in force Tuesday to hear a discussion of pay rates.

The lagoon is closed to commercial scallopers in Vineyard Haven.

Tisbury selectmen held a fiscal year (FY) 2016 tax-rate classification hearing Tuesday, Nov. 24. After hearing from Tisbury treasurer Jon Snyder and town assessor Ann Marie Cywinski, as well as several members of the public, selectmen voted to maintain the existing property tax formula for residential and commercial property.

In effect, year-round property owners will benefit from a portion of the tax levy being shifted from qualifying taxpayers domiciled in Tisbury to the tax bills of nonresident property owners.

A large group of town employees showed up to hear a report by Mary Aicardi, an associate working for the Center for Public Management at the University of Massachusetts Boston. Town officials asked the center to create clearly defined job descriptions, conduct a salary comparison, and create a salary classification plan.

The study made a number of recommendations that include renaming several town positions, working on personnel policies, and adding a human resources manager position. It sorted town positions into suggested salary grades in a comprehensive table. It recommended the spread of the range be 30 percent, or in other words, allow individuals to make 30 percent more money by the end of their pay steps.

Town administrator Jay Grande said the study needed to be distributed to town employees for review, and then he will work with the interested parties and the Tisbury personnel board toward to implement the recommendations.

“At this point there’s a lot of groundwork to do in terms of reviewing this plan and getting some feedback, and then I will have to go to the personnel board to solicit their recommendation,” Mr. Grande said.

Ultimately, the changes will be subject to a town meeting vote. Several members of the audience asked the selectmen to work quickly on the implementation of the new compensation and classification plan in order to add it to the warrant of a special town meeting on Jan. 12.

Selectmen voted to have a placeholder for compensation and classification changes among other articles for the special Jan. 12 town meeting, in the event that the review can be done that quickly. Otherwise, the proposed changes will be put to a vote in the spring.

Also Tuesday, there was a lengthy discussion regarding the closure of Lagoon Pond in Tisbury and the outer harbor to scalloping. Tisbury shellfish constable Danielle Ewart, with the support of shellfish committee chairman James Tilton, proposed making the closure effective Wednesday, Nov. 25, due to an abundance of seed scallops.

Several commercial fishermen in the audience passionately advocated for keeping the lagoon open, citing continued success in collecting adult scallops and the disappointment of paying $345 for a scalloping license only to be shut down so soon in the season. However, they acknowledged that the inner portion of the lagoon was mainly seed.

Selectman Melinda Loberg made a motion to close the lagoon and the outer harbor per Ms. Ewart’s recommendation, “unless she comes back to us that she would like to change it.”

“The shellfish warden’s job is to set the closures and openings, she has the authority to do that, and none of us should really think that we’re more qualified than her to do that,” Ms. Loberg said. “Some years we don’t have as good a scallop season as others, and it’s painful sometimes to experience that. But I don’t want to sit here and question the shellfish warden and what her authority is.”

With Ms. Loberg opposed, in an effort at compromise, and counter to the recommendation of their shellfish constable and appointed shellfish committee member, Larry Gomez and Tristan Israel voted to close the lagoon effective Wednesday, Nov. 25, but keep the outer harbor open until Dec. 31.