Officials Plan for Island Forum

By COLE LOUISON

The all-Island selectmen discussed both the near and distant future at their monthly meeting Wednesday night, examining educational finances and planning for the Vineyard meeting of the governor's ferry task force.

Though he was not in attendance, Dan Flynn, the Island's ferry task force representative, sent a letter urging the all-Island selectmen to send a representative to the Feb. 22 meeting at the Performing Arts Center.

The group nominated both Cynthia Mitchell of West Tisbury and Ted Morgan of Edgartown for the position, then proceeded to discuss the Island's role in presenting itself to the public and task force at the upcoming meeting.

"We need to be more emotion-based, or sentiment-based," said Chilmark selectman Warren Doty. We need to look for speakers who will really present themselves. We need to come out and impress everybody, convince them that we need to make the Steamship Authority our boat line."

"We shouldn't have sat back as long as we did and do nothing," said Edgartown selectman Ted Morgan. "That's what we did and New Bedford's been pushing, pushing, pushing.

"If we don't do something, we're going to get something else shoved down our throats."

Tisbury selectman Tristan Israel spoke, reporting on Tisbury's attempts to gain separate representation on the ferry task force.

"We support the Island effort," he said. "What we're trying to do is take charge of the infrastructure in our own harbor. There's what the Island can handle, and what our harbor can handle, and we can't handle much more in our own harbor."

Selectmen spent much of the meeting listening to a request from the office of the superintendent to use $750,000 in Chapter 70 funds for books and equipment needed to prepare the school for an increase in enrollment in its next fiscal year.

The Chapter 70 funds gave the school committee some $1.3 million more than they projected in their annual budget. About $320,000 of that money will go to the charter school, and the committee hopes to give $350,000 back to the towns in the form of reduced tax assessments and use the remaining $750,000 to prepare for next year.

"If we can start using some of this year's money to start restructuring the school, if I'm allowed to use some of the money to buy textbooks we know we're going to need to buy, then I can take those items off of next year's budget," said Carlos Colley, assistant to the superintendent for business affairs.

Except for the concerns expressed by Tisbury selectman Tom Pachico, Mr. Colley's request was met mostly with procedural questions from the selectmen. Mr. Pachico alone spoke out against the superintendent's office for not planning ahead.

"The school committee figured out what they needed for the high school, and now you're telling us you're $750,000 short of what you are going to have to spend?" he said. "If your budget was right to start with, and you assessed us all for it, where does this other $750,000 go?"

Mr. Colley responded. "I'm projecting 840 kids at the high school [next year]," he said. "Will it happen? I hope not. But can it happen? Yes, and if it can happen, we need to be able to deal with it."

Charles Clifford, executive director of the Martha's Vineyard Commission, was also on the night's agenda. He spoke to selectmen about alternate funding sources for the commission, specifically a O.5 per cent tax similar to the land bank's real estate transfer tax, to be used for funding the commission. Exemptions like those low-cost housing would be part of the tax in order to charge only those who can afford it, Mr. Clifford said.

Mr. Clifford acknowledged that such a funding mechanism would require votes by all the Island towns plus an act of the legislature.

Currently, the commission's only constant sources of funding are the six Island towns and $60,000 from the state.

"I dislike looking you people in the eye and saying we have to increase your budget," Mr. Clifford told the selectmen. "I would like the people causing the pain and growth on the Island to pay the freight."

"The transfer tax is the right way to go," said Russell Smith, legislative liaison for the Island. "We've had to fight and scramble every year to get $60,000."