West Tisbury talks budget and town meeting

“Everything is a go at the Tabernacle,” West Tisbury town administrator Jen Rand says about the annual town meeting. — Rich Saltzberg

West Tisbury officials have postponed the annual town meeting to June 23 at 4 pm. At a selectmen’s meeting Wednesday, the board decided to set up a backup plan for if they are unable to have a town meeting before June 30.

Selectmen have anticipated this date, but are only allowed to postpone town meetings for 30 days at a time, so an official action was required. Currently, the town is planning on having its meeting at the Tabernacle in Oak Bluffs at 4 pm. Oak Bluffs Police will be there to monitor entrance and egress points, manage traffic, oversee parking, and to police social distancing and public health guidelines. Outdoor meeting venues are restricted to 20 percent of their maximum capacity. Because the Tabernacle seats 1,500 people, the largest West Tisbury town meeting size, around 300, would be at just around 20 percent of the maximum capacity of that space.

Although officials said they are confident in their planned town meeting date, the backup plan is for if the town cannot approve its budget at the meeting, if the meeting does not reach a quorum, or if new guidance is released that further restricts groups of people from congregating.

Through special legislation passed for municipalities, a 1/12th budget would allow the town of West Tisbury to approve the budget on a month-by-month basis, until an annual town meeting can be held to pass the budget for the full fiscal year.

Town accountant Bruce Stone stressed the fact that West Tisbury has already set a date before the deadline for their town meeting, and said that the 1/12th budget is just a backup plan for if the budget is not approved by June 30. 

“In the event the town meeting gets delayed again, we would go to the 1/12th budget as of July 1,” town administrator Jen Rand said. “This won’t be necessary, assuming all the town meetings go forward as planned and approve their budgets.”

In other fiscal business, Stone discussed how the various town departments have made cuts where they need to in order to reduce the town’s anticipated tax levy.

Through town positions eliminated for this upcoming summer, along with minor wage-scale adjustments, Stone said, the town was able to drop about $243,000 out of the original budget. The cemetery commission and board of health have also made revisions to their budgets in the way of personnel changes that add a net of about $36,000 back to the budget. 

As of now, Stone said all line items in the regular budget are decreased by about $207,000.

“That’s about 1 percent from what the original budget was, and about 2.5 percent of the town budget that is not dedicated from regional assessments,” Stone said. “Town department has been doing a good job at making cuts where they can.”

In other business, the town is extending a no-parking zone between Lambert’s Cove Beach and Manaquayak Road. Rand indicated an issue of people parking alongside the road and creating a possible hazard. “People have gotten very creative. There needs to be an extension of the no-parking. People are starting to tuck their cars where we didn’t anticipate,” Rand said. 

Rand specified that the no-parking zone would be extended past the last permit parking space, going all the way to Manaquayak Road.