Up-Island school district approves FY12 budget, up 2.33 %


The Up-Island Regional School District (UIRSD) school committee approved an operating budget of $8.35 million for fiscal 2012 (FY12). That’s an increase of $190,151, and it puts the budget up by 2.33 percent from $8.16 million in FY11.

As a result, FY12 assessments for the member towns will rise by $169,857, a 2.1 percent increase over FY11.

School committee members voted 4-1 in favor of the budget, following a public hearing at West Tisbury School Monday. Veteran school committee member Jeffrey “Skipper” Manter of West Tisbury cast the dissenting vote, in keeping with his longstanding opposition to budget increases.

The committee, except for Mr. Manter, also voted to use the district’s regional agreement to determine town assessments.

The UIRSD includes the member towns of Aquinnah, Chilmark and West Tisbury.

Under the terms of its regional agreement, the budget is divided into four parts — superintendent’s office/shared services costs, school committee (district) costs, separate site operating budgets for the two schools, and building debt.

Chilmark School’s FY12 operating budget is $1.13 million and West Tisbury School’s is $5.34 million. Chilmark and West Tisbury each pay 80 percent of the building debt for their towns’ schools.

The UIRSD pays for its own transportation, and for health insurance, which is not included in other Island school district budgets.

How it’s divvied up

The towns’ shares of the superintendent’s and school committee costs are based on the total enrollment per town, divided by the total district enrollment. The towns’ cost shares for the site operating budgets are based on the enrollment per town in each school, divided by the district enrollment of each school.

According to the Martha’s Vineyard Public Schools’ October 1 census, the UIRSD enrollment totals 311 students, including 32 school-choice students from other Island school districts. That number does not include 44 Martha’s Vineyard Charter School students and 32 school-choice students who will be educated in schools outside the district. The district must pay tuition to their out-of-district schools.

Although the UIRSD’s enrollment decreased slightly in FY11, the number of students enrolled from Aquinnah and Chilmark decreased more than enrollment from West Tisbury, leaving West Tisbury with a higher percentage of the district budget to pay.

As a result, West Tisbury’s assessment increases by $252,085 in FY12, or 4.53 percent. Aquinnah’s FY12 assessment decreases by $71,807, 11.3 percent less than in FY11, and Chilmark’s by $10,420, or .55 percent less.

Plans for possible enrollment influx

One of the significant factors in the FY12 budget increase is the addition of a combination kindergarten and grade 1 class at Chilmark School. School administrators and school committee members said they anticipate a jump in enrollment at the school next year, based on current preschool numbers and the expected completion of homes in the new Middle Line Road neighborhood in 2011.

Head of Chilmark School Susan Stevens said indications are that enrollment in kindergarten and grade 1 may increase by 14 to 20 students next year. Whether an extra classroom is necessary will depend on how many new students arrive next year, Ms. Stevens said. The maximum number of students per teacher at Chilmark School is 25.

The additional K-1 class, with one teacher and one paraprofessional, their benefit packages and payroll obligations, and supplies and furnishings for the classroom, adds $138,036 to the budget. Chilmark’s share is $83,511, West Tisbury’s $30,251, and Aquinnah’s $24,274.

Chilmark selectman Frank Fenner, the only member of the public to attend the budget certification hearing, asked what would happen if the UIRSD did not need the extra classroom next year and did not spend the $138,000 as budgeted.

School committee chairman Dan Cabot said that the money would fall back to the fund balance as excess and deficiency (E&D) at the end of FY12. If the fund balance is more than 5 percent, the difference above 5 percent goes back to the district’s member towns.

Currently there is only $164,000 in E&D, school business administrator Amy Tierney added, so it is likely that any excess, as long as it brings the total to less than 5 percent of the FY12 budget, would remain in the district’s fund balance.

In discussion before the school committee’s vote, Mr. Manter questioned the wisdom of spending $138,000 to add a class at Chilmark School when there is available space at West Tisbury School. Mr. Manter also raised the issue of the school district being top-heavy in administration, with two school principals and two assistant principals.

Mr. Cabot said although the two issues were not germane to the motion on the floor to certify the draft three budget, the school committee could discuss them again at another time.

Policy and building updates

In other business, committee members approved Indian Education Policies and Procedures required for the town of Aquinnah to apply for Impact Aid funds. The government program provides financial assistance to local school districts that have lost property tax revenue due to the presence of tax-exempt Federal property, such as Indian lands. The approved policies and procedures next go to the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) for review and approval before Aquinnah submits its aid application.

In an update on West Tisbury School’s roof and window repairs, school business administrator Amy Tierney said the project is more complicated and costly than originally thought.

A recent feasibility study commissioned by the district included a professional cost estimation of $1.175 million for roof repairs and replacement of windows, doors, gutters, and soffits. That amount does not include design and permitting fees.

Since the project will cost far more than the $250,000 West Tisbury voters appropriated for window replacement, Mr. Manter suggested the school committee meet with the town’s selectmen to talk about the scope of the work and financing options.

At Mr. Weiss’s recommendation, the school committee agreed to submit a letter of interest to the Massachusetts School Building Authority to get West Tisbury School on the list for possible state funding for some of the work.

In other building-related business, the school committee approved, in concept, a proposal to add a bathroom to the preschool room at Chilmark School. The town of Chilmark would pay for the addition, Mr. Weiss said.