Oak Bluffs voters will consider a $29.3 million budget

Oak Bluffs from above. —Carl Treyz

The Oak Bluffs budget for fiscal 2018 (FY18), which begins July 1, totals $29.3 million, up a little less than 3 percent over last year’s $28.5 million budget.

“We’re on solid ground, which is reflected in our AA+ Standard and Poor’s bond rating,” town administrator Robert Whritenour told The Times. “We’ve also reached 5 percent of the overall budget in reserves, which is a pretty big milestone for the town.”

Mr. Whritenour said another sign of the town’s financial health is that the general fund balance at the beginning of FY17 was $2.25 million, compared with the beginning of FY12, when it was a negative $435,000.

“But we’re a small town, and in some ways we’re very restricted, so the key is to limit spending to sustainable levels,” he said. “We’re not rolling in it. The town’s overall revenue base is solid, but revenue growth is very limited.”

Mr. Whritenour estimated total growth for the coming year to be about 3.2 percent. He said the FY18 budget is based on estimated revenues and does not include any money from nonrecurring revenues, such as free cash or the stabilization fund. Almost three-quarters of the increase for the FY18 budget is due to a $338,000 expenditure for “strengthening” the Oak Bluffs School — primarily for more teachers to accommodate increased enrollment — and a $270,000 increase in health care spending for town employees.

The lack of state aid continues to bedevil the town’s financial fortunes. “Because of the regressive state formula, based solely on property values, we get hammered on state aid,” he said. “Towns the size of Oak Bluffs typically get between 30 and 40 percent of their budget from state aid. This year our net state aid will be about $145,000.”

Mr. Whritenour said there won’t be any major changes in town hall for FY18; the management structure may be improved with some additional personnel and expanding part-time jobs to full-time jobs. Funds have been allocated to make the part-time human resources director a full-time assistant town administrator/human resources director. A part-time administrative assistant in the assessing department will be made full-time, to accommodate the impending retirement of assessor David Bailey.

Succession planning in the wastewater department is provided for in the budget, with an additional wastewater plant operator listed as a $57,000 expenditure. Funds have been allocated to hire another full-time police officer. The planning board assistant position will be expanded from part-time to full-time.