To the Editor:
Over the past two weeks there has been both a news article and an editorial in the Vineyard Gazette regarding the actions and, as we believe, non-actions of the West Tisbury finance committee. We would like to set the record straight. For those who would like to see the entire January 25 meeting, it can be viewed on demand on MVTV.
First, with regards to our non-action, we did not suggest the closing of the Chilmark School. We simply stated our convictions that it is too expensive, the budget too complicated, and we feel a little dialogue is desperately needed.
The second issue discussed in the press was our decision to preliminarily not recommend the 2012 budget for the Up-Island Regional School District. The reason that this budget was preliminarily not recommended was that we, as a committee, had questions about the budget, wanted time to digest the information provided and then ask those representing the Up-Island Regional School District for clarification of questions that were raised that evening.
The Up-Island Regional School District budget is almost $6 million, or just about 42 percent of our town’s total budget. This is a large amount of taxpayer money. As a document, the school budget itself is a huge amount of information to digest, and approval of a budget is something the members of the fincom take seriously.
For several years, the West Tisbury fincom has had ongoing questions concerning the Up-Island School District’s budget. Specifically, we find a) the document is not as clear as we think it should be (as opposed to the clarity of the high school budget); b) the school district’s costs per student are very high in comparison to other school systems in Massachusetts and in comparison to the other Island schools; and c) we are not clear as to why the district’s expenses are rapidly expanding while school enrollment declines.
In the next few weeks, we hope to have the members of the Up-Island Regional School District meet with us again so that we may better understand the 2012 budget. We want to recommend the school budget, but it must be fiscally responsible and understandable.
Please note that at the same meeting that the Up-Island Regional School District first met with us, the fincom unanimously recommended the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School budget.
The West Tisbury FinCom does not have final approval of the budget for any town department. We only recommend or not recommend.
Ultimately, it is the voters of West Tisbury, who elected us, who approve or disapprove the school budget. It’s our elected duty to make sure that our recommendation is made with the best information and discretion we have. We are simply trying to perform that duty to the best of our abilities.
For the West Tisbury Finance Committee