Tisbury selectmen discuss housing bank, regional budgets


Tisbury selectmen agreed to put a nonbinding housing bank question on the ballot for town meeting, and discussed regional budgets during their meeting on Tuesday night.

The housing bank ballot question will ask residents if they are in favor of “establishing a regional housing bank to address critical housing needs on the Vineyard.” The proposal was presented by Abbe Burt, who is a member of the Tisbury Affordable Housing Committee.

The second part of the proposal dealt with funding, using a portion of each town’s existing Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds. After some discussion between selectmen and members of the audience, selectmen decided to leave the part about funding off the ballot question, since the main goal of the proposal, as Ms. Burt said, was “to test the pulse of the community,” seeing if Islanders are in favor of a housing bank.

Heidi Dietterich, administrative assistant of the Community Preservation Committee (CPC), urged selectmen to take the funding aspect of the proposal off the ballot question.

“People can’t just say, ‘We’re going to use CPA money.’ That’s what I think threw so many of us when we read this nonbinding ballot question,” Ms. Dietterich said. “And it might very well confuse people, because people don’t really understand sometimes how CPA does work. There’s a very particular process. We might be the lowest-hanging fruit to pick.”

Cheryl Doble, a member of the Tisbury planning board and the CPC, agreed that the CPA funding portion of the question ought to be left off the ballot. “The funding mechanisms would be decided during the period when you’re working out the details of how this would operate,” Ms. Doble said.

In other business, selectmen heard from representatives of the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC), Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS), and the Tisbury School to discuss their budgets.

Adam Turner, executive director of the MVC, said the MVC is asking the town to contribute 2.2 percent, the same as last year, for the budget of the regional planning body.

The assessment for Tisbury’s share of the MVRHS budget, with 21 new students, increased by 22 percent, and selectmen voiced their concerns about such immense increases in the cost of educating Tisbury students.

“We did recognize that the increase in students in Tisbury was going to hit your budget hard,” Matt D’Andrea, superintendent of schools, told selectmen. To minimize the impact, MVRHS offset the budget by roughly $289,000 in excess and deficiency funds. The fiscal year 2018 (FY18) budget increase for the high school was about 5.4 percent.

The Tisbury School also offset its budget with $100,000 in school choice funds, bringing the budget increase down from 1.9 percent to 0.4 percent. Selectmen commended John Custer, Tisbury School principal, for his efforts in maintaining a low budget.

The security lights at the Tisbury School have been the subject of some debate, as many neighbors have complained about their brightness, and selectmen asked Mr. Custer where the school was at in handling the issue. The school is working with the facilities manager and the Department of Public Works to come to a solution.

“I don’t want people to have the impression that we’re being dismissive of requests, because we’re not,” Mr. Custer said. “We are actively looking at what we can do to come to a solution, and we’ve enlisted a lot of help in trying to get there.”