Tisbury takes up $25.5 million budget and 65 warrant articles

The Tisbury School budget and building project, and Beach Road improvements, will require Prop. 2.5 overrides.

Tisbury residents gathered in the school gymnasium for town meeting last year. – MV Times file photo

Tisbury voters will be asked to take action on a total of 65 warrant articles and a proposed $25,475,439 million fiscal year 2017 (FY17) operating budget when they gather for annual and special town meetings on Tuesday, April 12, in the Tisbury School gymnasium. The special town meeting starts at 7 pm, followed by the annual meeting.

The $25.5 million operating budget represents an increase of 4.9 percent over the current fiscal year.

Articles include a new employee pay scale, a proposed bylaw to ban plastic shopping bags, and a bylaw amendment to allow the sale of all alcoholic beverages in licensed restaurants.

Voters will also confront three Proposition 2.5 override questions: a request to pay the $825,000 cost of a feasibility study for a Tisbury School building project; $350,000 of the school’s operating budget not included in the town operating budget; and a $300,000 bond to fund the design and engineering needed to place utilities along Beach Road underground.

The questions are subject to approval at the ballot box. Town elections are Tuesday, April 26.

Focus on education

Selectman Melinda Loberg told The Times that she anticipates school spending will generate the most discussion.

The school committee and school building committee will ask voters to authorize the borrowing of $825,000 to proceed in the Massachusetts State Building Authority grant program. The money is needed to fund a number of studies and the creation of a schematic design for a new or renovated school. It requires a two-thirds majority to pass.

The school committee will also ask to transfer $65,523 — the remaining unexpended balance appropriated at the 2007 annual town meeting to repair and replace the roof of the Tisbury School gymnasium — for the new purpose of funding costs associated with the building project.

“I certainly think the school article is a dominant article, and it should dominate our discussion, because we’re at a turning point for a decision, and people will have a lot of questions,” Ms. Loberg said.

Ms. Loberg also expects an article that asks the town to authorize selectmen to petition the legislature and allow the sale of all alcoholic beverages, in addition to beer and wine, in licensed restaurants, to generate discussion. The article was placed on the warrant by petition.

“I think there hasn’t been much discussion in town about it because it’s rather new to many people,” Ms. Loberg said. “The town was really divided the last time, so I think chances are there’s still going to be that kind of division and questions, and I have no idea how it will turn out.”

She added, “It always surprises me; sometimes things come up and really dominate discussion that you thought were just going to be a no-brainer.”

She hopes that town meeting will go smoothly, in part due to recent efforts to inform voters by the Tisbury vision council, town administrator Jay Grande, and the Tisbury finance committee.

Mr. Grande created a PowerPoint for a vision council meeting that grouped together all the related articles, which does not occur at town meeting, where the moderator chooses articles at random — a procedure adopted to keep voters who may only be interested in specific articles from leaving town meeting.

“I think that’s sometimes confusing to people because they get one article to fund a truck or something, and then four or five articles later they get another article to fund a truck, but it’s from a different pile of money,” Ms. Loberg said. “It can be very confusing.”

Additionally, the Tisbury Finance Committee is writing a “very informative voter guide, talking about the votes that they took to either support or not support a particular article, and the rationale for doing so,” Ms. Loberg said. It will be handed out to voters beforehand. Tisbury finance manager Jon Snyder will also give a presentation prior to voting, Ms. Loberg said.

“He’ll talk about the state of the finances of the town, where we get our money, and how we spend it,” she said. It will also include how the night’s vote will impact the tax rate, and how that translates into real dollar amounts for individual households.

“I think that it’s important for us to try to at least give this information out initially, so people know the impact of their votes,” Ms. Loberg said. “I’m pleased about that. I think it’s going to be very helpful.”

Budget increases

Providing an education for 320 students comprises approximately 45 percent of the town budget. The high school’s assessment will increase from $3,586,116 to $3,704,343. The Tisbury School’s budget will increase slightly, from $5,353,326 to $5,416,159.

The police department budget will increase from $1,828,180 to $1,844,393.

The department of public works will see a budget jump of 20.4 percent, from $1,374,324 to $1,654,073, mainly to account for necessary building maintenance and improvements around town.

Largely due to salary increases, the ambulance and EMT budget will jump 18.7 percent, from $462,727 to $549,319.

The recent hire of a town information technology administrator will push the information technology budget up 41.8 percent, from $124,085 to $175,977.

Town employee insurance will increase from $3,297,500 to $3,826,500, with the biggest jump in health and life insurance, from $2,790,000 to $3,069,000. The town will also contribute $25,000 more to other post-employment benefits (OPEB).

The treasurer/collector and board of health budgets will both decrease in FY17.

Voters will also be asked to take action on a new employee compensation plan that would set a top salary range for town managerial and professional employees of between $64,844 (no positions assigned) and $139,449 (town administrator), and a top hourly range for part-time, seasonal, and temporary employees of between $14.04 (casual labor) and $29.24 (paramedic).

Repairs needed

Money requests for maintenance and repairs in many of the town’s buildings dominate the warrant.

Voters will be asked to appropriate and transfer $10,000 to replace two HVAC units, $50,000 for building materials and services for interior renovations, and $100,000 to fund exterior work on windows, siding, trim, and gutters at the Vineyard Haven Public Library.

Town hall spending requests include $27,500 to build an office and conference room; $75,000 to replace the roofing, framing material, trim, and wall siding; $7,500 for other roof repairs; and $60,000 for the consulting, engineering, and design services necessary to evaluate the interior and exterior condition of the building. Another $14,000 is needed to fund ongoing construction at the Town Hall Annex.

Voters will be asked to spend $50,000 to upgrade and repair the Lake Street Landing town dock; $180,000 on the Owen Park town dock; $50,000 for consulting and engineering services on a master plan for the town’s cemeteries; $25,000 for improvements to the Oak Grove Cemetery; and $40,000 to connect the pathway from the Lake Street playground park to the parking lot at the Lake Street Landing.

Jobs and bylaws

The 21-article special town meeting warrant includes a request to establish a new, full-time patrolman position in the police department and adds the new position of a town facilities manager.

Changes to the town waterways bylaws would allow selectmen to license or restrict “non-traditional vessels and water and non-water dependent uses.”

Voters will also be asked to ban the business use of 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 approved, it would take effect on Jan. 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 choose.