Edgartown voters will take up a $32 million operating budget, which includes a salary for a full-time fire chief, when they gather for their annual town meeting Tuesday night. Also up for debate are a costly paving project for Meetinghouse Way, a proposal for the town to acquire the popular Main street park known as the Mini Park, and a county proposal to buy a new home for the Center for Living.

A special town meeting convenes at 7 p.m. in the Old Whaling Church, followed immediately by the annual town meeting. There are 76 articles on the annual warrant. Longtime moderator Philip J. Norton Jr. will preside. The annual town election is Thursday; polls will be open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Edgartown town hall. The only contest on the ballot is a two-way race for a seat on the parks commission.

Town meeting voters will consider making Peter Shemeth's role as fire chief a full-time position. — Mark Lovewell

The fiscal year 2016 operating budget represents a 4.1 per cent increase in spending over the previous year, with sharp hikes in school spending, public safety budgets and health care costs for town employees. The budget includes a 1.5 per cent cost of living adjustment for most town employees.

The fire department will ask for $477,982 for salaries and expenses, a 24.4 per cent increase over the previous year. The budget reflects the town’s decision to make the position of fire chief a full-time job with a salary of $110,000, This year the town paid chief Peter Shemeth $51,570 to oversee the department of 46 firefighters and three officers, including responding to fires, vehicle accidents, alarms, investigations and inspections.

“I can no longer do it on a limited amount of time,” the chief said this week. “It really requires someone being here on a full-time basis.” He said some proactive measures that could prevent fires are not getting done because of time limitations. “Right now, with a limited amount of time, you’re just doing minimal requirements,” the chief said. “This way we could be out doing more beneficial inspections, as a preventative measure.”

The department also intends to increase the stipend paid to call firefighters in an attempt to retain and attract volunteers.

The Edgartown police department will ask voters to approve $2.9 million in salaries and expenses, an increase of 2.5 per cent over last year. Some of the increase is due to a shift to younger police officers after several veteran officers retired this year, town administrator Pam Dolby said. “Much of that is salaries,” Mrs. Dolby said. “We have some younger officers. They get step raises. The older officers are at the top of the pay scale, they don’t get step raises.”

The total budget for “protections of persons and property” will increase from $4.5 million in the current fiscal year, to $4.7 million, an increase of five per cent.

Both the Edgartown School budget and the assessment for the town’s share of educating students at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School will see substantial increases. Spending for the Edgartown School will go up from $5.87 million to $6.26 million, an increase of 6.6 per cent. In a separate warrant article, voters will decide whether to hire a third kindergarten teacher, at a salary of $51,765, to handle an unexpected spike in the number of students entering school this year. Spending for the regional high school, including the town’s share of educating students and funding for the superintendant’s office will rise 4.5 per cent, from $5.25 million to $5.5 million.

Another factor pushing spending up is the cost of health insurance for town employees. The town pays 75 per cent of the cost of health insurance, which will amount to $2.75 million in the coming year, an increase of $250,000, or 10 per cent over the current year.

Voters will decide Tuesday whether to spend $775,000 to pave Meetinghouse Way, a heavily traveled but mostly unpaved roadway that connects the Edgartown-West Tisbury Road with Herring Creek Road. Voters will have the option of raising the sum from taxation, transferring money from available funds, borrowing, or some combination of those options. In order for the project to move forward, voters would have to approve two Proposition 2 1/2 questions on the April 16 town election ballot. The first question would authorize spending the money, the second would exempt the capital project from the Proposition 2 1/2 tax limiting law.

Plenty of debate is expected on the proposal from the community preservation committee and the conservation commission for the town to buy or take by eminent domain a .16 acre parcel on Main street officially named Alfred and Marjory Hall Park, but known to most as the Mini Park. Since 1979, town has rented the lot, first from the late Edgartown businessman Alfred Hall, and then from a trust controlled by his family. The park serves as a pleasant spot for weary visitors or take-out lunches, as well as a base for charitable raffles and bake sales. In the final year of the five-year lease which expires this year, the town will pay $22,491 in rent, plus an amount equal to the annual property tax. The town’s assessed value of the tiny lot is $1.6 million.

At town meeting voters will decide whether to authorize $2.1 million to buy the park. A total of $1.9 million would come from Community Preservation Act funds, and $200,000 would come from the Conservation Trust Fund.

“It’s money that is there and available,” Mrs. Dolby said. “It won’t affect people’s taxes.”

Benjamin Hall Jr., an attorney who represents his family’s business interests, has said the property is not for sale. The warrant article would authorize the town to take the park by eminent domain, a legal process that allows a town to take ownership of the land in the public interest, after paying the owner fair market value for the property.

Town officials also expect healthy debate over an Islandwide initiative to purchase a new home for the Center for Living, the agency that provides a supportive day program for people with Alzheimer’s and others who need special care, and other elder services. County commissioners have proposed the purchase of the former Vineyard Nursing Association building off State Road in Vineyard Haven for $1.4 million. The warrant article would authorize the county to borrow up to $1.6 million. Edgartown’s share of the debt would be $69,037 for the first year of the loan. Voters will also be asked for $109,728 to fund the town’s share of operating costs for the Center for Living.

Arthur Smadbeck, chairman of the board of selectmen, is a strong supporter of the measures. “We have a growing aging population on Martha’s Vineyard,” Mr. Smadbeck said. “Some of the most fragile people are the elderly who suffer from Alzheimer’s and dementia. This program directly benefits those people. At the present time, we do not have enough space to accommodate all the people that need to be in this program. We have a waiting list.”

Identical articles appear on the warrants of all six Island towns. The Edgartown financial advisory committee recommended approval of the measure. Finance committees in Oak Bluffs, Tisbury, and West Tisbury voted not to recommend purchase of the building. All six Island towns must approve the plan for it to move forward.