Chilmark to ask voters to approve 5.67 percent budget increase

The town’s annual meeting will confront beer and wine question.

The Chilmark town meeting will start at 7pm on Monday, April 24 at the Chilmark Community Center. — File photo by Michael Cummo

Chilmark voters will head to the Chilmark Community Center at 7 pm on Monday, April 24, to consider 34 warrant articles, including a $9.57 million operating budget.

The town’s spending plan is up 5.67 percent over the town’s current operating budget of $9.06 million, town accountant Ellen Biskis said. Most of the increase covers pay raises and health insurance costs for the town’s employees, she said.

There are also some line items that were previously paid for in onetime articles that are now incorporated in the operating budget, Timothy Carroll, Chilmark executive secretary, said.

Voters will also be asked to allocate nearly $500,000 in Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds. CPA funding comes from a voter approved surcharge on property taxes plus a state contribution, to pay for open space, historic preservation, affordable housing, and recreational facilities. There are several Community Preservation–related articles, including $31,512 for the town’s share of a new roof on the Martha’s Vineyard Museum and $32,500 for the town’s share of 20 affordable housing apartments on Kuehn’s Way in Tisbury.

“We voted on all the applications, and I think we’ve given money to everyone — we may not be giving as much as they’ve requested, but we’re voting to give money to all the different applicants, and it’s up to the towns to say yes or no,” selectman Bill Rossi said. “There’s money there, and sometimes there are conditions attached — like following through on things — but generally they don’t generate a lot of discussion.”

The CPA fund votes include setting aside money in various town accounts for future use — $32,500 for open space, $32,500 for community housing, and $227,500 for reserves.

“Our general rule of thumb is to keep the out-of-town applications a certain percentage of our annual take, but at the end of the day it’s always good to go to the town and let the voters decide whether or not to go forward with it,” Mr. Rossi said.

Public safety requests total about $262,600, including $200,000 to help pay for a new ambulance and three powered replacement cots, which are the gurneys used by first responders in ambulances. The money is to be appropriated from ambulance receipts, as well as the town’s stabilization fund. The fire department is seeking new mobile radios and compressed air bottles.

Mr. Rossi explained the three up-Island towns contribute every year to the ambulance fund.

“We’ve been allocating a certain amount every year for an annual plan, so it doesn’t become a huge ticket item when it comes time to replace the ambulances,” Mr. Rossi said.

There is also a need for new accounting software for $30,000, and $41,532 to reduce the Up-Island Regional School District’s other post-employment benefits. The latter expense, even if approved, only gets added to the budget if the other two Up-Island towns approve their shares at their respective town meetings.

Mr. Rossi expects the non-monetary articles to get the most attention — namely the two Squibnocket articles that would amend zoning bylaws (which will be addressed separately in a special town meeting on the same evening), the beer and wine proposal for this dry town, and the nonbinding article that seeks to support police policy when it comes to dealing with immigration.

“What’s going to generate the most discussion are the bylaws in the Squibnocket district — I’m sure that will have a fair amount of discussion before that comes before a vote — and the beer and wine will generate a fair amount of discussion,” Mr. Rossi said. “Also the police [article] involving enforcement of some of the immigration laws [will generate discussion], but most likely that will pass, most likely unanimously, which I hope it does. Those are things I think might get a little emotional for people.”

Mr. Rossi said the zoning changes could put some court issues to rest. “[It is] to allow a causeway, a road access in part of Squibnocket district where it is unclear whether or not it is allowed now,” Mr. Rossi said.

At the board’s meeting Tuesday, selectman James Malkin waved a glossy postcard with an artist’s rendering of Squibnocket Beach including a photographic image of a wooden platform purporting to show what the height and placement of a proposed causeway at Squibnocket would look like. The postcards were mailed to Chilmarkers before the scheduled special town meeting on April 24, where voters will consider warrant articles that address reconstruction or relocation of existing roads, including the addition of elevated sections or causeways.

“There is an advertising or marketing or political campaign out there,” Mr. Malkin said. “Subsequently, I received this in my mailbox, and there’s a much larger version at Cronig’s. This rendering is factually incorrect, and I would call this fake news. It’s asking you to vote against the proposed planning board bylaw, and it has nothing to do with Squibnocket.”

Mr. Malkin said the bylaw needs a two-thirds vote to pass.

“Unfortunately, we’re seeing misinformation meant to sway the naïve,” Mr. Rossi said.

Voters will also consider a $10,000 expense to update the parking lot near the town landfill which is mostly used by “the sunset crowd.” A separate vote seeks to change the use of an eight-acre parcel that had been set aside for affordable housing, because it’s too close to the dump and may have contaminated drinking water. The town wants to use it as a storage area for Chilmark fishermen’s gear and for other municipal purposes by the highway department and for fire department training.

“Those departments need the space,” Mr. Rossi said. Selectmen are “definitely not” looking at land for a new public safety building.

The town’s election is scheduled for Wednesday, April 26, from 12 to 8 pm, at Chilmark town hall. Two non-binding questions ask voters whether moped rentals should be eliminated and whether a regional housing bank should be established.

Connie Berry contributed to this report.