Martha’s Vineyard High school committee okays $17 million budget

— File photo by Ralph Stewart

The Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) school committee Monday unanimously certified a $16,938,267 budget for the 2013 fiscal year 2013 (FY13) that begins on July 1, 2012.

The new budget is two percent higher than the FY12 budget of $16,603,131.

“The operating budget was up under two percent, and that is even with significant salary increases in the third year of a three-year agreement,” James Weiss, superintendent of schools, said in a telephone call Wednesday. “But the loss of state revenue once again pushed it up slightly over three percent in terms of the assessed budget. So even though we were very careful to keep costs down, state monies just aren’t doing the amount of money they were doing in the past.”

Mr. Weiss said the budget would be presented to Island voters in the form of individual town assessments at annual town meetings in the spring. Under the terms of the regional agreement only four of the six Island towns must approve it.

“I think the high school did a good job,” Mr. Weiss said. “There were a lot of meetings, not well attended by fin com (finance committee) members or selectmen, but they were held. A couple of towns had good representation and that is all we can ask for.”

The major increases in the budget are tied to contract obligations and include health insurance, salaries, and longevity pay, according to school officials.

For example, teachers will receive a 2.75 percent salary increase, plus steps and increased longevity stipends, in the FY13 budget, based on a contract signed in 2010.

Other notable increases include the cost of additional special education assistants, from $186,535 in FY12 to $247,715 in FY13, related to a reorganization of an alternative education program next year. Individual education plan expenses will increase from $50,000 in FY12 to $85,000 in FY13, based upon current student needs.

The vocational department’s early childhood education program will also change. A reduction of $11,000 in the program’s FY13 line item reflects a plan to begin phasing it out. The program currently has six students and one teacher. Starting next year, no new students will be accepted into the program, so that it may be discontinued after the current students cycle through in about two and a half years.

The total fixed costs in the FY13 budget decreased from $4.98 million to $4.76 million, mostly due to decreases in debt service.

Regional high school, enrollment dropped to 669 students this year from 683 students in 2010, according to a census taken October 1. It represents a 2 percent decrease and reflects a downward trend, from 3.5 percent fewer high school students in 2010, 1.5 percent in 2009, and 6 percent in 2008.

This year’s freshman class has 5 more students and the junior class 16 more students than last year’s. The sophomore class has 27 fewer students and the senior class 8 fewer than last year’s. The total enrollment includes 369 boys and 300 girls.