Edgartown Requests $22.7 Million Budget
By JAMES KINSELLA
Town officials will ask Edgartown voters next month to approve a $22.7 million operating budget for the coming fiscal year.
The proposed budget represents an increase of $885,025, or 4.1 per cent, over the current budget.
Voters also will be asked to allow the town to borrow up to $1,965,000 to help fund a new public water well near Pennywise Path and a new fire truck. The proposed borrowing would include $1.5 million for the well and $465,000 for the truck.
While the April 13 town election ballot includes a request to exempt $600,000 in borrowing toward the construction of the new fire station on Chappaquiddick from Proposition 2 1/2, town administrator Pamela Dolby said the town previously voted the money. Ms. Dolby said the ballot question is a housekeeping item that specifically will exempt the borrowing from Proposition 2 1/2, a state law that restricts annual increases in the property tax levy.
The voters also will consider requests to spend roughly an additional $1 million during the coming fiscal year to fund a variety of projects, including the rehabilitation of the Dark Woods trolley lot and the annual operation of the dredge program. But the voters will not be asked to approve a permanent override.
The proposed budget would take effect July 1, the start of the town's 2007 fiscal year.
Edgartown's annual town meeting is set to begin at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 11, in the Old Whaling Church on Main street. The town election is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday, April 13, at the town hall on Main street.
Assistant assessor Will Pfluger said the tax levy and the tax rate for the current year have yet to be certified. As of earlier this week, Mr. Pfluger estimated the levy at about $18 million and the tax rate at about $3.03 per $1,000 assessed valuation.
The operating budget includes a 4.2 per cent cost of living adjustment in salaries and wages. The personnel board, the finance advisory committee and the board of selectmen have recommended that voters approve the adjustment, which Ms. Dolby said will cost about $200,000. Voters last year approved a cost of living adjustment for the current budget at the same level of 4.2 per cent.
The largest dollar increases in the operating budget can be found in the education budget, which would rise from $3,932,721 to $4,746,323; the Martha's Vineyard Regional High School assessment, which would increase from $2,451,798 to $2,698,725; the town's share of its employee health insurance premiums, which would rise from $1,759,341 to $1,905,366; and the police budget, which would go up from $1,582,372 to $1,746,323.
Ms. Dolby attributed those increases to rising salaries and the increased costs of health insurance.
The operating budget also shows areas that would decrease from the current year, including salaries in the selectmen's office, which would decline from $164,464 to $133,511; education expenses, which would fall from $1,011,419 to $865,481; the assessment for the Martha's Vineyard Refuse Disposal and Resource Recovery District, which would fall from $556,268 to $535,136; and debt payments for previously approved projects, which would fall from $2,545,538 to $2,426,235.
Of those decreases, Ms. Dolby attributed the decline in selectmen's office salaries to the retirement of longtime town administrator Peter O. Bettencourt; to cost-cutting by the school committee; to new management at the refuse district; and to the paying down of debt on prior borrowings.
As is traditional practice in Edgartown, the warrant and town election ballot include a number of proposed expenditures that would need approval both at the town meeting and at the election for passage. All the expenditures would represent spending beyond the levy limit calculated under Proposition 2 1/2.
Two expenditures that would involve borrowing include $1.5 million toward a new public well, and $465,000 for a new fire truck. The three proposals, which would require a two-thirds vote at town meeting and a majority vote at the town election for passage, are:
* A public well. Proposed by the water commissioners, the well, with a maximum daily capacity of 1.3 million gallons, would be slated to go into operation by the summer of 2007 near Pennywise Path off the Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road.
The overall cost is at about $1.9 million, according to water superintendent Fred Domont. The well would replace the Meshacket well, which Mr. Domont said has a high water content. The water department would retain the Meshacket well as a reserve.
But no borrowing would occur until the town receives notification that the town has received a loan, including a grant, from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and that the grant is large enough to cap the town's borrowing at $1.5 million or less.
Mr. Domont said the town would borrow up to $1.5 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development Program to gain access to an overall two-year, $3,942,200 loan and grant package from the federal agency.
The first year is scheduled for the coming fiscal year. In that year, the department would tap a $1,349,100 rural development loan and a $578,100 rural development grant to fund the construction of the Pennywise Path well. The second year is schedule for the following fiscal year. In that year, the department would tap a $1,410,500 rural development loan and a $604,500 rural development grant to fund the construction of water mains and of a centralized control center for the water department.
User fees would finance the project. Mr. Domont said the federal loans would be paid back over 40 years to minimize the annual cost to water department customers.
* A fire truck. The board of fire engineers have proposed borrowing $465,000 to buy a fire truck to replace the town's 1978 Ford pumper. Fire chief Antone Bettencourt said the fire department wants to replace the truck because of its age and of the improved firefighting capability offered by a new pumper truck.
Voters at the town meeting and the town election also will consider a number of one-time spending requests in the coming year beyond the annual property tax levy limit. Those proposals include:
* Rehabilitation of Dark Woods lot. The town has proposed spending $230,000 at the park-and-ride trolley lot, including rebuilding the lot and surfacing it with asphalt, planting trees and shrubs, and improving lighting and drainage.