Members of the Up-Island School District came to the Aquinnah select board with two projects in mind during Tuesday’s Zoom meeting: funding for Chilmark School’s heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system, and West Tisbury’s roof.
Select board member Juli Vanderhoop could not attend the meeting because she was holding her “Honey Talk” event through Zoom for the Aquinnah Public Library.
The board unanimously approved entering into an intermunicipal agreement with the school district for Chilmark School’s HVAC and related renovations, which makes it the final town to approve it after Chilmark and West Tisbury. According to Martha’s Vineyard Public Schools business administrator Mark Friedman, a total of $950,000 will be borrowed for the project through the agreement, and there will be a 10-year payback period for Aquinnah’s portion.
However, funding for West Tisbury School’s roof was held off for now. Town administrator Jeffrey Madison said the delay is because there is not enough free cash to pay for the $23,227.64 Friedman said the district was looking for at the moment. According to Madison, there is “a lot of demand” for the free cash. Additionally, Madison said, $22,000 to be paid for the sheriff’s emergency communications appropriations depletes Aquinnah’s reserve account.
The board decided to return to the topic in about a month, but a vote during a special or the annual town meeting may be required for the funds.
In other news, tax assessor Harald Scheid led the presentation for the fiscal year 2022 tax classification public hearing.
“There’s really only one real point to this hearing, and that is for the select board to determine whether the town should adopt a single tax rate, as they have in the past, or alternatively zing the large commercial tax base down with a higher tax rate, thereby yielding a lower residential rate for all,” Scheid said with a chuckle. “For obvious reasons, we just don’t have enough of a commercial and industrial base to warrant that shift in burden.”
The current property valuations Scheid presented showed that residential properties made up 97.65 percent, while commercial, industrial, and personal properties combined made up 2.35 percent of the assessment. Aquinnah counted 401 single-family homes in 2021, which is less than half of Chilmark’s count of 1,092 homes.
Scheid said the plan is to raise $5,380,974 through property taxes during the fiscal year 2022, an increase from fiscal year 2021’s levy limit of $5,135,754. Although there are other sources of tax revenue in Aquinnah, property taxes “far and away” bring in the most.
According to Scheid, the proposed tax rate for fiscal year 2022 would be $6.27 per $1,000 on average. So the average taxes paid would be $9,938 for the average property valuation of $1,585,000. Fiscal year 2021’s rate was $6.39 per $1,000 on average, but the property values were lower, so the average taxes paid were $9,152 for the average property valuation of $1,432,200. This represents an 8.6 percent increase in taxes for Aquinnah residents during fiscal year 2022.
Scheid said this proposed rate still needs to be certified by the state’s Department of Revenue.
“We’re really under the gun here as far as our ability to control how much people pay in taxes every year, and I think this demonstrates this pretty darn well,” Madison said. “We have to do something about it.”
The select board unanimously approved a single tax rate for Aquinnah.
Members of the Coalition to Create a Martha’s Vineyard Housing Bank requested bringing the warrant article for the housing bank to the Aquinnah town meeting in the spring of 2022. Laura Silber, coordinator of the housing bank, said the language in the warrant article has not been presented to all of the towns, and the language in it may change. Madison said Aquinnah’s town meeting is on the second Tuesday of May, and is the last in the series of the Island’s town meetings. As long as the amendments are submitted three weeks in advance of the meeting, it will be fine, according to Madison. The board unanimously approved adding the housing bank’s warrant article to the town meeting in the spring.
The select board unanimously supported a project to mow and better maintain Moshup Trail’s viewing areas. Carlos Montoya, who brought in the request, said while the Land Bank has made progress, more can be done to improve the view of the area. He said the mowing should cost about $2,000 annually.
“It doesn’t have the views it used to have,” Peter Temple, former Aquinnah planning board member, said. Temple said the plan is to get this project to a town vote, and they plan to get the necessary permits before then. He said the project would not be eligible for Community Preservation Act funds because mowing is not a qualifying project.
Continuing in the Moshup Trail area, Jessica Roddy brought a proposal to the board: an exchange of an 80-foot parcel of beach for two parking spaces. However, Aquinnah board member Tom Murphy wanted to talk with town counsel Ron Rappaport about some possible legal hurdles with the exchange. Aquinnah board chair Gary Haley was also concerned with issues of access to the area. The board unanimously approved referring the issue to Rappaport.
Meanwhile, the board unanimously approved a recommendation from the Aquinnah shellfish committee to open Menemsha Pond for family scalloping, with a limit of one bushel per household, starting on Thursday, Dec. 2.