Voters in Aquinnah Will Confront Supplemental Budget Request

By ALEXIS TONTI

After twice rejecting a general override to Proposition 2 1/2, voters in Aquinnah are being asked to consider yet another request for extra funding, this time for $113,000.

The money would cover cost of living increases for town employees and restore a number of other drastic cuts that were necessary to balance the budget earlier this year.

A special town meeting to consider a supplemental budget convenes Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Aquinnah town hall.

The supplemental budget request is part of a small eight-item warrant, which includes housekeeping items and other routine fund transfers.

A special town election in coordination with the override has not been scheduled. Overrides of the state-mandated tax cap must be approved both on town meeting floor and at the ballot box.

There has been some confusion in town over the misstep involving the special election, and the selectmen have scheduled a special meeting Monday at 4:30 p.m. to decide whether to postpone the special town meeting.

The bureaucratic snafu is just the latest snag in what has been a rocky budgetary road for the town of Aquinnah this year.

Voters adopted a $2.4 million budget at the annual town meeting in May, only to have it nullified when a $260,000 Proposition 2 1/2 override was rejected at the polls.

The general override was needed because after years of using free cash to stay under the state-mandated tax cap, the town found itself with no free cash this year.

The problem was compounded by an increase in regional assessments, including a large increase in the town's share of the Martha's Vineyard Regional High School budget. The increase was due to a jump in the number of students attending the high school from Aquinnah.

The annual town meeting was consequently reconvened in June to gut the budget in time for the town to keep operating at the start of the new fiscal year.

Voters in fact approved two budgets at the meeting.

The first was the bare-bones plan that included a number of deep cuts. Among other things, voters eliminated a cost of living increase for all town employees, the selectmen's salaries, funding for the town resident homesite program and town participation in the Martha's Vineyard Shellfish Group.

The second was a contingency plan that restored $130,000 of the budget cuts, but was subject to a new override vote at a special election.

The second override was rejected two months ago.

Now the selectmen will try again.

The supplemental budget includes cost of living increases for town employees and restores the selectmen's salaries. It calls for almost $16,000 to be restored to the community programs committee, which threatened a popular summer camp for children. The budget also includes $20,000 in funding for the shellfish group and about $10,000 for the resident homesite committee.