Aquinnah voters will gather for their annual town meeting on Tuesday, concluding the town meeting season on the Island.
Voters will take up a 12 per cent operating budget hike for the coming year and funding for a variety of work associated with a project to relocate the historic Gay Head Light.
Annual and special town meetings begin at 6:45 p.m. at the Aquinnah town hall. An 11-article special town meeting warrant will be followed by a 30-article annual town meeting warrant. Moderator Michael Hebert will preside. A quorum of 39 voters is required.
The annual town operating budget is $3.8 million, up $400,000 over last year. The increase can be largely tracked to the town’s assessment for the Up-Island Regional School district, up 35 per cent this year due to increased enrollment. The high school assessment is also up slightly due to higher enrollment.
At the annual town election Wednesday, voters will be asked to approve a $230,000 Proposition 2 1/2 override question to help pay for the added education costs.
Other spending increases in the budget include legal costs, up from $60,000 to $100,000, and payroll increases due to new positions that include a director of public works and two new part-time positions at the town library.
“Overall we do have a significant jump in certain payroll items, but we’re just trying to run ourselves as a better town,” town administrator Adam Wilson said.
The budget includes a 2.5 per cent cost of living adjustment for town employees.
Costs associated with the project to move the Gay Head will appear in series of articles on both the special and annual warrants. All told, voters will be asked to approve $75,000 on the lighthouse project this year, some of it from the town Community Preservation Act fund. A $30,000 geotechnical engineering study at the cliffs, $25,000 in emergency restoration work at the lighthouse, erosion study at the cliffs and digitizing historic lighthouse documents are all on the project list. Planning has begun to move the lighthouse sometime in the next two years due to severe erosion.
If voters agree, another $6,000 in CPA money will be spent to create access and parking for a new playground behind the town hall. About $14,000 has already been set aside from prior town meetings for the project.
A bylaw banning the public consumption of medical marijuana will come before voters as it has in other towns this spring, following the passage of a state ballot initiative last fall law legalizing medical marijuana. The bylaw is being proposed by the town police department. A similar bylaw was approved by voters in Tisbury and Oak Bluffs but voted down by Edgartown. West Tisbury voters will take up a public consumption bylaw and a proposed one-year moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries at a special town meeting this month.
Mr. Wilson said the town opted to not propose the moratorium on dispensaries, deciding that state regulations approved last month were sufficient. Edgartown approved the one-year moratorium on dispensaries, while Tisbury and Oak Bluffs turned it down.
Other requests before voters include $39,000 for the town’s share to purchase a new ambulance for the Tri-Town Ambulance Service and $34,500 to buy a new police cruiser. The new vehicle for the police department has been rejected twice by voters in the past two years.
There is also a request for $2,000 to buy a computer and office equipment for the police station, where a bunk room is being converted into office space.
Voters will be asked to add $25,000 to the compensated absence fund, established last fall to pay for unused vacation and sick days.
The personnel committee is also proposing a series of amendments to the personnel bylaw to clarify the use of compensatory time, require annual performance evaluations and establish vacation guidelines for new employees.
The special town meeting warrant includes requests for $45,000 to upgrade an existing fire pumper, $4,500 to buy a new shed at Philbin Beach, and $1,200 to build a dog pen behind the town hall for the animal control officer.
The annual town election will be held on Wednesday, May 15 at the town hall. Polls are open from noon to 7 p.m. There are no contested races; selectman Spencer Booker is running for reelection.