Aquinnah voters approve $5 million budget

Assessors won’t get software upgrade.

The Aquinnah annual town meeting was held at the old town hall. — Brian Dowd

The Island’s final annual town meeting of 2018 wrapped up in Aquinnah Tuesday night after nearly 3½ hours of debate.

The meeting kicked off with a short speech from state Rep. Dylan Fernandes, D-Falmouth, who said he has made it a priority to attend meetings in each town on Island.

Discussion on changes made to the town’s personnel bylaws took up a large chunk of the town meeting. The changes were described by town counsel Ron Rappaport as “housekeeping,” but several voters were concerned it gave too much power to town administrator Jeff Madison because of a clause allowing town selectmen to delegate tasks to Madison.

James Glavin, chairman of the board of health for the town, said he’s worried the autonomy of the town’s board would be compromised.

Jack Collins, a lawyer who specializes in personnel bylaws and worked on the town’s bylaw additions, told Glavin it would not take away or give any additional powers to Madison, only allowing him to take on tasks the selectmen delegate to him if need be.

While most articles were passed, two articles failed to win support of town voters. An article to repair a stone pillar that had been knocked down three years ago in the town cemetery, for a cost of $2,500, failed, along with a $15,000 article for an upgrade to the board of assessors’ appraisal software.

Allen Rugg, chairman of the town’s finance committee, said the committee did not believe the software was necessary, and therefore did not recommend voters pass the article.

An article to transfer a parcel of land on State Road to the Aquinnah housing committee and an article for $8,547 to pay for the town’s share of Dukes County Regional Emergency Communications Center were both postponed indefinitely.

Town voters approved a $5 million budget, with funding for community programs such as the Center for Living and ACE MV, a 23 percent pay increase for Madison, who has taken on more work hours, and $490,000 for employee benefits and retirement pay.

Several articles, including $200,000 for an increased educational expense for the Up-Island Regional School District, $15,000 to design and plan a new parking lot around town hall, and $170,000 to fund various projects and administrative fees with the Community Preservation Committee, were all passed by town voters.

At the start of the meeting, Marsha Shufrin addressed town voters, urging them to not let the board of assessors become an appointed position instead of elected when they vote on Wednesday’s ballot. “The balance of power should be kept in check,” Shufrin said.