The Edgartown select board approved a 15 per cent fare rate increase for the Chappy Ferry, as residents continued to pepper leadership with questions about the ferry’s financials.

Nearly 100 people attended the public hearing on Monday to discuss the proposed hike that ferry co-owner Peter Wells had initially requested in early November. The Chappy Ferry, which is the sole public access point between Edgartown and the island of Chappaquiddick, is privately owned by Mr. Wells and Sally Snipes, but under the jurisdiction of Edgartown, which must approve all rate increases.

In his letter to the Chappy Ferry Steering Committee requesting the increase, Mr. Wells reported a revenue shortfall of 16 per cent in 2020, and a shortfall of 7 per cent in 2021, proposing the across-the-board rate hike to cover the gap.

While residents at Monday’s meeting did not doubt that the cost of operations have increased the past few years, some questioned whether revenue could have decreased during the pandemic, urging the select board to provide a clearer justification for the rate increase.

“The Trustees had record sales for over sand vehicle permits, and we saw other trends on Martha’s Vineyard that saw substantial increase in traffic on here with regards to Edgartown,” said Chappy Ferry Steering Committee member Rick Biros, clarifying that he was not expressly for or against the rate hike. “What we were asking was diligence with regard to the rates…let’s actually validate that so that it’s proper.”

Chappaquiddick resident Anne Floyd echoed Mr. Biros’ sentiment.

“I’m not for or against either,” she said. “What I want is the selectman to do their fiduciary duty and I want a fair and open reason to do whatever their decision is.”

Chris Aldrin also urged greater transparency surrounding the decision.

“I’ll just come right out and say I’m against it until I see more data,” he said. “We just don’t have the level of detail to feel comfortable that this is justified.”

In their meeting several weeks prior, the steering committee had recommended the select board review the ferry’s financials and compare the proposed rate hike to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) rates for similar services in the region to determine appropriate pricing.

Selectman Arthur Smadbeck said that upon review of CPI figures in the Boston-Cambridge-Newton area and ferry financials, a 15 per cent rate increase would be in line with rising costs in the region.

“Inflation affects everybody,” he said. “It affects the people who work at the ferry, it affects the ferry owners, and of course it does affect the people on Chappaquiddick, and I don’t take it lightly that this will increase the cost.”

Mr. Smadbeck went on to move the rate increase effective Jan. 1, provided that all qualifying year-round Chappaquiddick residents could receive the subsidized rate that had been partially paused over the pandemic. The selectman also encouraged Mr. Wells to share the financial information he gave to the select board with the steering committee.

Selectman Michael Donaroma agreed, seconding the motion.

“If [Peter] wants to give the numbers out to make people feel better, doesn’t mean next year the numbers won’t go up or go down,” Mr. Donaroma said. “I think we can all agree his expenses have gone up.”

The rate hikes were approved unanimously.

Vehicle fares will increase from $13 to $15 round trip, passenger fare will increase from $4 to $5 round trip, and bike fares will increase from $6 to $7 round trip. Fares will also increase for discount books and Chappy year-round resident books.

In other business, Edgartown will also submit this year’s Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) application to continue their childcare and housing rehabilitation programs. The town has also allocated $50,000 to use as contingency for the housing rehabilitation program, which has aided in 24 different projects since its inception, grant writer Alice Boyd said.

The childcare program has served 22 children since its pilot year, grant writer Cassie Boyd Marsh added, and is projected to serve 10 children this year.

‘We’re looking forward to assisting as many families as we can for these funds,” Ms. Marsh said.

Edgartown has also continued its conversation regarding rising costs from the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, employing advice from former MVC representative Ted Rosbeck.

“We’re seeing more and more expenses by the commission and that’s going to increase the town’s expenses,” Mr. Rosbeck said. “I’m not going to comment on whether that’s right or wrong, just that’s what we’re seeing and have been talking about…when you expand the DRI checklist so aggressively over time…it’s just natural you’re gonna need more staff, more money, everything.”

The town will revisit the issue at the FY24 budget meeting in January.