Edgartown to tackle $33.5 million budget and 81 warrant articles

The annual town warrant includes three Proposition 2.5 overrides to fund a new ambulance, road repairs, and a bike path.

Edgartown's town elections will take place on Thursday, April 14.

Edgartown voters will consider 81 warrant articles and a proposed $33.5 million fiscal year 2017 (FY17) operating budget at the town’s annual and special town meetings on Tuesday, April 12, in the Old Whaling Church. The special town meeting starts at 7 pm, followed by the annual meeting. Up for consideration are numerous money matters, a proposed bylaw to ban plastic shopping bags, and the expansion of the town’s historic district.

In addition, the annual town meeting warrant includes an array of Community Preservation Act (CPA) committee fund allocations and several articles related to purchases and town repairs.

Edgartown’s proposed $33.5 million FY17 operating budget is an increase of 4.7 percent over last year’s, at $32 million.

Selectman Art Smadbeck said in a phone conversation with The Times that he anticipates the warrant articles will pass smoothly, with the exception of the one regarding the historic district’s expansion, which is likely to garner the most contention.

“Other than that, there’s nothing big on the agenda,” Mr. Smadbeck said.

Although there has been much debate about a proposed Island-wide plastic bag ban, he said he doesn’t expect Edgartown voters to be too heated up about it.

“I don’t think it’s going to change people’s lives dramatically,” Mr. Smadback said. A plastic bag ban is comparable to a littering ban, Mr. Smadbeck said, and “it’s probably a good thing.”

“It’s a question of how we want our community to look,” he added.

Nothing financial appears to be especially extraordinary, either, Mr. Smadbeck said, including the three Proposition 2.5 (Prop. 2.5) overrides that would fund a new ambulance, road work, and a bike path on Meetinghouse Way.

“It gives the voters an extra say-so because overrides need to be voted on at the ballot,” he said, adding that it’s hard to argue against replacing an ambulance.

And as for the bike path, Mr. Smadbeck said, “People obviously want it; they voted for it.”  The proposal was brought forth by petition when Meetinghouse Way was paved.

Budget increases

A few operating budgets will increase slightly. Education comprises approximately 38 percent of the town budget. The high school’s assessment will increase from $4,139,785 last year to $4,410,858. Edgartown school salaries also increase, from $5,476,607 to $5,601,050 in FY17. The cost of educating Edgartown students, totaling 531 in the October 2015 census, will increase from $11,763,131 last year to $12,116,767 in FY17.

Budgets for the police, fire, and shellfish departments will increase by $278,840, from $4,807,193 last year to $5,086,033 in FY17. Town employee benefits, including retirement, health insurance and Medicare, will increase from $5,345,768 to $5,670,012.

On the plus side, budgets for town administrative functions, including the selectmen’s office, treasurer, clerk, zoning board of appeals, and Council on Aging, will decrease from $2,888,914 last year to $2,330,501 this year.

Annual town meeting

The big ticket item on the annual town meeting warrant is a $2.5 million borrowing article for capital improvements for the Martha’s Vineyard Refuse Disposal and Resource Recovery District. Those include restructuring traffic flow and residential drop-off at the Edgartown transfer station.

Voters also will be asked to approve 12 appropriations from Community Preservation Committee (CPC) funds. Those include a $500,000 appropriation from the 2016 Community Preservation budgeted reserve and unreserved fund balance for the Edgartown Memorial Wharf restoration project. An appropriation of $350,000 would go towards capital improvements for Edgartown town hall and interior restoration to the inside.

An $84,000 appropriation from free cash would be spent on purchasing and equipping two new police cruisers and would also allow Chief David Rossi and the board of selectmen to dispose of two old cruisers.

Voters also will be asked to raise and appropriate $85,000 on a new roof and exterior repairs to the Edgartown police station, as well as $260,000 to purchase and equip a new ambulance. The ambulance purchase also requires approval of a corresponding Prop. 2.5 override ballot question.

An article proposed by highway department includes requests to fund projects totaling $660,000. The department also requested that the town raise and appropriate $350,000 to rebuild and resurface town streets and $210,000 to construct a bike path on Meetinghouse Way. Both requests require approval of Prop. 2.5 override ballot questions.  

An article proposing a plastic bag ban bylaw would bar any store from giving away plastic shopping bags less than 4 mils thick, including “such plastic bags that are marketed as ‘biodegradable’ or ‘compostable.’” The proposed bylaw was submitted by the Vineyard Conservation Society, the board of selectmen, the conservation commission, and the board of health.

The bylaw would allow for recyclable paper bags and bags used to “wrap foods to retain moisture,” such as for meat and frozen goods. If the bylaw passes, it would take effect on January 1, 2017, and carry up to a $100 fine for a third offense. The bylaw allows for stores to charge fees for paper and reusable bags if they so choose.

An article that would expand the historic district to nearly twice its size was submitted by the historic district commission (HDC). It requires a two-thirds majority to pass. The HDC has purview over any part of a house or building that is visible from a public way, including from the Edgartown harbor.

Special town meeting

The special town meeting warrant consists of 15 articles, 11 of which are allocations from free cash. They include $20,000 to upgrade radio communications for the police and fire departments; $28,411 to be allocated for unforeseen repairs to the fire station and the department’s equipment; and $10,000 to cover increased library operating expenses and another $10,000 for additional staff coverage for the remainder of FY16.

Voters also will be asked to approve reallocating $67,000 from the cemetery lot sales reserve fund into a landscaping project in the New Westside Cemetery.

An article from the CPC proposes reallocating $90,000 from CPC funds to

cover unforeseen costs associated with the preservation and restoration of the Old Whaling Church’s clock tower.

The wastewater commission submitted three articles: a request for $35,456 from free cash for reimbursement to the wastewater department’s account for repairs to the Dock Street pump station’s electric supply cables; an account transfer of $20,000 to cover the cost of emergency repairs and a new pump for the Lily Pond Well; and a transfer of $133,800 from the water department’s surplus account to fund painting the standpipe.