West Tisbury FinCom rejects school budget

The West Tisbury Finance Committee (FinCom) voted Tuesday night to reject the fiscal year 2012 Up-Island Regional School District (UIRSD) budget and will ask voters to reduce the budget by $190,000 at annual town meeting on April 12.

The UIRSD school committee approved an FY12 operating budget of $8.35 million last December, an increase of $190,151 from $8.16 million in FY11.

The reduction the FinCom recommended would essentially flat-fund the budget to FY11 levels, FinCom member Greg Orcutt said in a phone call yesterday.

West Tisbury, Chilmark, and Aquinnah belong to the UIRSD. Under the terms of its regional agreement, which differs from the state’s statutory formula, the budget is divided into four parts.

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 West Tisbury School and Chilmark School, divided by the district enrollment of each school.

West Tisbury’s assessment would increase by $252,085 in the school committee budget. However, Aquinnah’s FY12 assessment decreases by $71,807 and Chilmark’s by $10,420. The difference is largely due to changes in enrollment. The number of students enrolled from Aquinnah and Chilmark decreased this school year more than enrollment from West Tisbury, leaving West Tisbury with a higher percentage of the district budget to pay.

“Part of the problem is that student numbers have dropped over the years and the budget continues to rise,” FinCom chairman Sharon Estrella said in a phone call yesterday. “We can’t seem to get any true answers. It is complicated and also very frustrating.”

The school district budget will appear on the town operating budget on two lines: the figure the UIRSD school committee recommends and the FinCom figure.

Under state regulations adopted in 2007, all member towns in a regional school district must approve an existing regional agreement, while only two-thirds of the towns must approve the state’s statutory formula.

If West Tisbury voters approve the FinCom’s recommendation, the UIRSD budget would have to be redone using the state’s statutory assessment method.

At the FinCom’s request, superintendent of schools James Weiss attended Tuesday night’s meeting, along with West Tisbury School principal Donna Lowell-Bettencourt, Chilmark School head of school Susan Stevens, and UIRSD school committee members Jeffrey “Skipper” Manter and Roxanne Ackerman.