West Tisbury moves to merge treasurer, tax collector

Selectmen vote $10k of preliminary work to rebuild Tiah’s Cove culvert onto town warrant

From left, selectman Cynthia Mitchell, selectmen chairman Skip Manter, selectmen Kent Healy, and town administrator Jennifer Rand at their meeting on Jan. 17. —Rich Saltzberg

West Tisbury selectmen voted unanimously last Wednesday to approve a warrant article that joins the positions of town treasurer and town tax collector into a single job. West Tisbury treasurer Kathy Logue attended the meeting in support of the article, and said she intends to be at town meeting in support, too.

In a telephone interview after the meeting, Ms. Logue said she has been town treasurer since 2003, when she took the reins from Cynthia Mitchell. Around the time of her election, Ms. Logue said the Department of Revenue suggested to the town that it unify the positions of tax collector and treasurer and that it make the combined position appointed as opposed to elected. But it wasn’t until recently, when longtime tax collector Brent Taylor announced her retirement, that a move to unify the positions gained steam.

“It just makes a lot of sense to professionalize it,” Ms. Logue said, referring to the new position. She also pointed out that Tisbury has already combined the positions. “More and more towns across the commonwealth are going for that,” she said.

Ms. Logue said that one of the reasons for combining the positions is that there’s a lot of work overlap between the two jobs. She also said, like the treasurer’s position, the new job shouldn’t be an elected one. She cited the complexity of treasurer work, and the specialized skills necessary to see it through day to day as an example. “You can’t just step into this position anymore,” she said.

According to Ms. Logue, town meeting and ballot votes changed the treasurer’s position from elected to appointed about four years ago.

In a subsequent telephone interview, Ms. Taylor concurred with Ms. Logue about the need to ensure the position is appointed. “As the town has grown, things have gotten more complicated,” she said. She said just because folks in town may like somebody and vote them in to such a role doesn’t mean that person could cope with its demands.

When she first began as tax collector 41 years ago, Ms. Taylor said she worked six hours a week. In that pre-computer era, she said it took over a month of work to get the bills together.

“I used to type all the tax bills,” she said, and admitted with humor that her typewriter work at the time was hunt-and-peck style.

Now she said her job is 35 hours a week, and more complex. Like Ms. Logue, she said combining the positions is a common trend. “A lot of towns in the commonwealth do things this way,” she said.

Town administrator Jennifer Rand told The Times that Ms. Taylor intends to retire June 30. If her retirement goes as planned, and should the warrant article pass town meeting and a town ballot question, she anticipates the new position will begin on July 1, which is the first day of the fiscal year. Also on that day, the position of tax collector would be dissolved. A separate article to be generated by the personnel board for the April warrant will provide for a treasurer–tax collector assistant, according to Ms. Rand.

In other business, superintendent of streets Richard Olsen came before the selectmen in support of a $10,000 appropriation article for preliminary design, engineering, and permit work on a culvert replacement at the end of Tiah’s Cove Road. Mr. Olsen said a new culvert was needed because the present one was simply too old. He also said the conservation commission was in favor of the project, and may be interested in increasing the diameter of the culvert to facilitate the passage of fish. He estimated the culvert was presently a 12-inch bore. The selectmen voted unanimously to place the appropriation on the warrant.