If West Tisbury voters approve a slew of money requests next week, first at annual town meeting and again at the polling booths, they could end up with an $8.8 million budget, 23 per cent higher than this year's.
"The budget is up significantly," said selectman and treasurer Cynthia Mitchell. "Much more than in recent years."
Annual town meeting begins at 7 p.m. on Tuesday in the West Tisbury School gym. The annual election and balloting take place Thursday from noon to 8 p.m. at the new public safety building in North Tisbury. Only one race is contested; incumbent assessor Ray Houle is facing a challenge from Jonathan Revere.
Override questions will total $289,000, and many departments in town can share the blame. Schools, police and fire departments are all asking for increases. Those will be part of a general override, amounting to $130,211. Another $75,000 is needed to pay architects for the proposed town hall renovation, and for the library, $10,000 would cover a feasibility study for an addition to the building.
Health care will also figure in the override questions. The Tri-Town Ambulance Service needs $5,000 for the town's share to purchase advanced life support equipment. Finally, there's the special request to fund the Martha's Vineyard Hospital emergency room through the intermunicipal agreement. West Tisbury's share would be $69,070.
The hospital issue could stir the most discussion, according to Mrs. Mitchell, who is also the chairman of the Dukes County Health Council. "In the past, the intermunicipal agreement for the hospital money has been a point of controversy for the town," she said.
The plan would allow $500,000 a year in public funds to support the private hospital. Towns would commit the funding and then advertise for providers to offer the emergency medical services. Almost by default, the Martha's Vineyard Hospital would be the only provider to bid, and the public money could help fund the emergency room.
Edgartown and Chilmark voters have agreed to fund the plan. At least five of the six Island town must commit to the funding for it to take effect.
Voters will need to be convinced that the hospital really needs the money, Mrs. Mitchell said last week at a hospital forum. But she also hopes voters will be encouraged by recent changes approved by the county health council. Those changes could make it possible for public funding to go for charity care, paying for patients with financial need. That scenario could make towns eligible for a 50 per cent reimbursement of funds from both state and federal programs, according to Mrs. Mitchell.
The five override questions will be part of the 26 articles on the annual town meeting warrant. The finance committee is expected to question the Up-Island Regional School District budget, which is up by eight per cent for next year. The committee had initially proposed dismantling the school district, saying the formula for sharing costs overburdened West Tisbury taxpayers. Now, the board has agreed to sit down on a task force to look at costs, but committee chairman Skipper Manter still plans to raise the issue at town meeting.
"For the last several years, we've been concerned about the unfairness in how the town is assessed in the up-Island region," he said. "We believe we're over-assessed by $250,000." Chilmark and Aquinnah, he said, should be paying more to the district since students from those towns necessitate hiring more teachers.
The public safety budget is also up, a response to more demands for policing in the summer months, according to chief of police Beth Toomey. The plan is to hire more special officers for the season and to add an officer for a midnight shift.
Also, the chief will promote one officer to the new rank of corporal, who will then supervise summer staff. The cost for this change is just under $2,000, according to Chief Toomey. In a separate article, police will ask voters for permission to buy two new four-wheel-drive vehicles at a cost of $69,992.
"This town is one of the fastest growing in Massachusetts," the chief said. "I can't keep things back to where it was 10 years ago just because it feels better."
Skateboarders will be looking for support and cash when they ask voters to approve spending $5,000 to help build a skate park near the ice arena.
A lengthy article deals with making changes to last year's revision of the zoning bylaws. The adjustments cover rules about second-story apartments above businesses and will establish new regulations about camping vehicles in town. Finally, the bylaw could be changed to allow affordable housing to be available to qualified renters, not just buyers.
Finally, besides a series of routine money transfers, there are two proposals aimed at setting term limits for selectmen to eight years and preventing officials from serving in other public capacities without seeking a judgment from the state ethics commission.
Voters at the ballot will also be asked to affirm a decision made last month at a special town meeting that would set up a Community Preservation Fund through a three per cent surcharge on property taxes.
It's yet another proposal that could affect the taxpayer's wallet. West Tisbury voters have traditionally supported money requests, but not blindly. "The people need to feel comfortable with the proposal and understand the need," said Mrs. Mitchell.