A lengthy new bylaw to regulate wind turbines large and small, the prospect of taxing rental property owners and the chance to play spoiler and send the up-Island regional school budget back to the drawing board — these are among the issues that will confront Aquinnah voters when they gather for their annual town meeting next week.
The 31-article warrant this year is packed with an array of items ranging from $50,000 for a new addition on the town fire house to emergency repair funds for the town library and the Gay Head lighthouse.
The meeting begins Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. in the old town hall following a special town meeting at 7 p.m. Moderator Walter Delaney will preside.
The sleeper question on the warrant involves the town’s share of spending for the up-Island regional school budget. Aquinnah, West Tisbury and Chilmark are all part of the district, which includes elementary schools in West Tisbury and Chilmark.
In two consecutive articles Aquinnah voters will be presented with a choice: follow the regional school assessment formula or revert to the so-called state statutory assessment formula.
Last year the dueling assessment formulas caused problems for the regional high school.
This year the up-Island region appears to have inherited the problem.
Chilmark and West Tisbury have both voted school budgets based on the regional agreement formula. But if Aquinnah decides to go with the state formula, the school budget will be sent back to the drawing board because in order to use the regional agreement formula, all three towns must agree.
Under the state formula Aquinnah would save $27,000, Chilmark would save $101,000 and West Tisbury would have to pay an additional $128,000.
It will be up to Aquinnah to decide next week.
And the question comes in a somewhat complicated way.
In one article voters will be asked to accept their share of the Up-Island regional assessment.
If the article is approved, the next article asks to take $27,000 from the town stabilization fund to add to the school assessment.
If voters turn down the first request, it will trigger a return to the drawing board for the up-Island regional school committee and its budget.
Selectman Camille Rose said this week that the purpose of the school articles was “to get the attention of the school district.
“We proposed and supported the regional assessment last year because we were hoping to get some relief from the district. We were not even asked to address the board this year. I don’t think [the statutory assessment] will pass, but we need relief,” she said.
Vineyard schools superintendent Dr. James H. Weiss had a different view.
“We were unaware they had this expectation. The budget committee met for months developing the budget, then debated the budget for several months. Aquinnah representatives weren’t there. If we missed the boat, we would take responsibility for it,” he said, adding:
“What they should have done is used the regional assessments as West Tisbury and Chilmark did and advise voters against it if that’s their belief.”
In other business, voters will take up a $2.86 million annual town operating budget, level with last year with only a few remarkable line item changes, including a request by the Aquinnah library for additional staffing, an increase of more than 25 per cent in municipal debt and reduced expenses for public safety as a result of savings on ambulance costs.
The town warrant includes four Proposition 2 1/2 override requests totaling $85,000. The requests would exclude four long-term debt items, including one for the fire house addition. All the articles have corresponding questions on the annual town ballot, which are required for final approval.
Voters will be asked to spend $100,000 from Community Preservation Act funds for library renovations, but news this week that a state grant for library repairs has been approved may generate an floor amendment.
Voters will also consider a first-time request to begin establishing rental taxes on private homes and to regulate the construction of wind power facilities in Aquinnah.
The wind power bylaw article is part of Aquinnah’s designation as an energy district of critical planning concern (DCPC).
The bylaw includes detailed regulations for small, medium and large wind turbines in town. If enacted, the bylaw would end a limited building moratorium that has been in place on structures over 32 feet in height, as part of the DCPC designation.
A separate bylaw would require future heated swimming pools and hot tubs to use geothermal or solar heating systems. Chilmark voters took up a similar bylaw this year.
Voters will be asked to trade a 3.6-acre landlocked lot off Sand Castle Lane to abutters in exchange for two affordable home sites.
Four articles propose using $222,000 in Community Preservation Act funds for a variety of projects, including repairs to the Gay Head Light, renovations on the old town hall, habitat restoration on Moshup Trail, mortgage payments for the Vanderhoop Homestead and affordable housing.
Finally, Aquinnah will be the last town to consider to consider paying for a share of the county health care access, pest control and engineering programs. The proposal has come before all six towns this year.