If Oak Bluffs voters approve the more than $600,000 in override requests facing them this year, many homeowners could see their taxes go up by at least $100 a year.
But the prospect of higher taxes is not the only issue voters will wrangle with next Tuesday at the annual town meeting, which starts at 7 p.m. at the high school Performing Arts Center.
Far from routine, the 40-article warrant will ask voters to decide whether to repeal the smoking ban in bars, authorize the sale of 24 acres in the southern woodlands, impose a strict leash law for dogs, reduce the number of selectmen from five to three and require moped renters to have a motorcycle license.
Voters could be gasping for air because that's not all. An innovative proposal could allow some property owners to build homes on previously unbuildable lots.
And skateboarders across the Island will have their hopes pinned on Oak Bluffs voters who might help convince high school leaders to approve a skate park for a 150-foot square patch of high school land.
"There's something in it for everybody," said Michael Dutton, chairman of the board of selectmen. "Voters have the opportunity to decide our destiny on a host of different subjects."
Also on the warrant are more money articles, one asking voters to commit $3.8 million for a new library and another one seeking $260,000 to cover a budget shortfall at the new wastewater plant, which began operating on Monday. Both those requests would be covered under debt exclusions, not overrides.
The official budget for next year stands at $15,994,954, an eight per cent increase over this year. That figure is roughly $200,000 over the limit imposed by Proposition 2-1/2. Another $400,000 in override requests comes in the form of eight separate articles, calling for expenditures ranging from road paving to new gear for firefighters.
Voters will start the action with a special town meeting that deals with 10 articles, most of them money transfers.
But one of the more controversial questions could be one that has nothing to do with money. Dog owners could soon face a tougher town bylaw that requires their canines to be leashed anytime they are away from home. If last fall's hearing in front of the Martha's Vineyard Land Bank commission is any indication, the proposal from the police department could spark huge opposition.
Tradewinds Airport, a land bank preserve, is a popular spot for dog walkers, many of whom go to Tradewinds so they can let their dogs run free. "There have been several instances of unwanted dog behavior over there," said Mr. Dutton. "That's what really brings this about."
The next article on the warrant has nothing to do with dogs, but it does concern the section of town near Tradewinds and the landfill - and an unusual land use question that could allow landowners to build on lots that were previously considered too small.
The area is known as Zone II, and it falls under certain development restrictions because it is close to the Farm Neck well, a source of drinking water. The plan would allow people who own 10,000-square-foot lots to buy so-called land credits from the town to theoretically increase their lot size.
It's a complicated idea, but the town would sell easements for at least $2,000 apiece, allowing small two-bedroom homes to be built on such lots. Mr. Dutton said the approach has been used on a case-by-case basis on the mainland, in other areas that are sensitive to nitrogen loads from septic tanks.
If approved, the measure could free up about 10 building lots in Zone II, according to Mr. Dutton.
Voters will take action on at least two politically charged issues. One would ask the town to require that moped renters in town have a motorcycle license. The proposal was submitted by voter petition.
While selectmen have said that such a measure is unenforceable because it runs counter to state law, Mr. Dutton said voters could use this opportunity to send a strong message to state legislators who are considering passing the same requirement.
Voters could also send a message to the high school committee, which has been wondering for at least two years if it should turn over a patch of land to the town for use a skate park. Mr. Dutton said the park would be covered under the town recreation department's insurance policy at a very small cost.
Residents Marty Nadler and Duncan Ross have submitted a petitioned article, calling for the board of selectmen to be reduced from five to three members. Seven years ago, the town voted to increase the board membership, but Mr. Nadler, a planning board member, said the change didn't make things any better.
If passed, the measure would require a new election next January in which voters would vote for a three-member board. "Let people who are in there now run if they would like to," said Mr. Nadler.
Voters could approve a proposal to form a historic district study committee, which would be charged with writing a report that identifies significant buildings, sites and architectural features in town.
Two articles deal with public buildings in town. One that calls for a $150,000 addition to town hall will likely be tabled, said Mr. Dutton, because the town needs better estimates for the work.
The second article asks for $3.8 million for a new library. Library trustee Karen Achille could not be reached for comment, but Mr. Dutton said he expects library officials to push for passage now while holding off on appropriating the money.
At issue is state reimbursements for the project, and voters will need to show their support for a new library in order to ensure state funding, said Mr. Dutton.
Selectmen are looking to voters to back a higher salary for a new town administrator. While no salary is indicated in the warrant, next year's budget allocates $80,000 for the position, a 23 per cent increase over the salary level for this year. The last administrator, Casey Sharpe, left the job last summer to take a position in the school superintendent's office.
The $15 million wastewater plant that opened up for flow on Monday already needs $260,000 from taxpayers. Mr. Dutton explained that there were some bills incurred early in the process that town officials neglected to include in the original loan application to the state. This money will be borrowed, some of it eligible under the state no-interest loan program.
Other spending articles facing voters include:
* $4,086 for the Dukes County Regional Housing Authority; $6,448 for the Cape Light Compact; $45,000 for new turnout gear for firefighters; $40,000 for new breathing equipment for firefighters; $2,500 for radios for the fire department; $53,000 to lease four police cruisers; $50,000 for residential placement for an Oak Bluffs School student; and $150,000 for road re-paving.