West Tisbury budget up 4 percent for 2018

West Tisbury Town Hall

The net increase in the fiscal 2018 (FY2018) budget for West Tisbury is 4 percent, according to Bruce Stone, West Tisbury town accountant. The grand total for 2018 is $18,249,756, up from $17,540,676 this year. Voters will be asked to support the spending plan on Tuesday, April 11, at the annual town meeting.

The increase could rise to 4.7 percent if voters approve $146,633 to reduce other post-employment benefits liability for the Up-Island Regional School District (UIRSD). The $146,633 will only be added if West Tisbury and the other two up-Island towns, Chilmark and Aquinnah, approve their shares of the total $208,286. Other post-employment benefits generally refer to health care, life insurance disability, legal, and other services, rather than pensions.

Without that additional outlay, the Up-Island regional intergovernmental budget is $7,353,199 for FY2018, up from $7,115,411 in FY2017, a 3.3 percent increase. Adding $146,633 to FY 2018 would increase the budget for this line item to a 5.4 percent increase, translating to a 4.7 percent increase in the overall town budget.

“It’s a pretty normal year with normal ups and downs — some staff leaving and other people getting step increases,” town accountant Bruce Stone said Tuesday.

Mr. Stone cites four reasons for the increase: building maintenance; an increase in hours for the assistant building inspector, from 20 to 40 a week; some of the benefit line items, including retirement and health insurance; and the Up-Island Regional School District.

“There is a move to better maintain town buildings, which is a two-pronged attack,” Mr. Stone said, meaning that first the town must catch up with repairs and then institute a regular maintenance schedule to keep up in the future.

There is also a $100,000 warrant article aimed at taking care of some onetime deferred maintenance. The maintenance budget is up 57 percent, with some onetime projects that include the roof and skylights at the Field Gallery and work to deal with “moisture intrusion” at the library.

Last year there was money set aside for a consultant to do an analysis of town buildings and to come up with a regular maintenance schedule that should be ongoing. “This is an outgrowth of that [consultant’s work],” Mr. Stone said.

Some of the benefit line items in the town budget also show significant increases. The town’s regular annual assessment to the county retirement fund increases 13 percent, and the health insurance line is up about 7 percent.

“Our percentage increase doesn’t seem as much as some of the other towns, but it is one of our larger increases,” Mr. Stone said. “I think we budgeted more this year than we ended up needing.”

There is a new $4,200 line item added to the budget, for the town herring warden. “The selectmen several months ago decided the amount of time required to keep the ponds free and flowing [and the resulting] demands on his time are actually enough to add a stipend for him and to give him a small expense line item,” Mr. Stone said. “It’s sort of indicative of the type of town that West Tisbury is to have a need for a herring warden.”

The tax rate for 2017 is $5.97, but the 2018 rate will not be established until the property valuations are completed this fall.