Up-Island Regional School District considers $8.9 million budget

West Tisbury School. — File photo by Janet Hefler

The Up-Island Regional School District (UIRSD) school committee contemplates a draft operating budget of $8.96 million for fiscal year 2013 (FY13) for Chilmark and West Tisbury schools. That’s an increase of $151,603, or 4.26 percent, above the $8.35 spending plan for the current fiscal year.

As a result, FY13 assessments for the school district’s member towns, Aquinnah, Chilmark, and West Tisbury, will rise to $8,659,411, an increase of $395,742, about 4.79 percent over FY12.

After discussion of the FY13 budget at a meeting last week, the school committee agreed to add $100,000 for a kitchen renovation and expansion project at West Tisbury School, and $15,000 for research and development on the project.

In a phone conversation with The Times yesterday, school business administrator Amy Tierney said she is reworking the budget to reflect those changes, which will be reviewed at the school committee’s next meeting at West Tisbury School at 5 pm on December 13.

A public hearing and the school committee’s vote on the FY13 budget will be held at Chilmark School at 5 pm on December 19.

How it’s divvied up

Under the terms of the UIRSD 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.

Ms. Tierney said about $38,000 of the overall budget increase is due to increases in Superintendent of School James Weiss’s FY13 budget, which includes shared services and programs such as special education provided through his office to the Island’s five school districts.

The All-Island School Committee approved Mr. Weiss’s FY13 budget in November, which is up by 4.96 percent over FY12. A large part of the increase Mr. Weiss requested was due to the necessity to hire more special education support staff to handle an influx of students with complex disabilities Island-wide.

Chilmark School’s FY13 site operating budget is $1,157,702, and West Tisbury School’s is $5,498,164. Chilmark and West Tisbury each pay 80 percent of the building debt for their towns’ schools.

Chilmark School’s budget increased by $23,707, about 2.09 percent over FY12, and West Tisbury School’s budget by $153,145, about 2.87 percent over FY12. Ms. Tierney said the increases were all related to negotiated salary increases.

The West Tisbury School kitchen project will be added to the capital assessment part of the budget, Ms. Tierney said. As the town that owns the school, West Tisbury will pay 80 percent of the cost and the other two towns a portion of the remaining 20 percent, based on enrollment, she said.

Debt for the West Tisbury School’s exterior renovation project in 2011 added $153,000 to town assessments for shared district costs in the budget.

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

The towns’ shares of the superintendent’s and school committee (district) 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 318 students, including 44 school-choice students from other Island school districts. That number does not include 46 Martha’s Vineyard Charter School students and 27 school-choice students who will be educated in schools outside the district. The district must pay tuition to their out-of-district schools.

Learning from the past

Last April the UIRSD FY12 budget sparked a skirmish between the school committee, the West Tisbury selectmen and West Tisbury Finance Committee (FinCom) on town meeting floor.

The school committee had approved a FY12 operating budget of $8.35 million in December 2010. Due to enrollment differences, West Tisbury’s FY12 assessment for shares of the superintendent’s and school committee costs would increase by $252,085, while Aquinnah’s would decrease by $71,807, and Chilmark’s by $10,420.

At West Tisbury’s town meeting, FinCom member George Orcutt, backed by the FinCom and selectmen, proposed an amendment to reduce the West Tisbury School budget by $750 per student, for a total of $233,250, and to lower the town’s assessment by $167,666.

The amendment was defeated and the budget approved by voters. Last summer West Tisbury selectmen Cindy Mitchell and Richard Knabel, town accountant Bruce Stone, and Mr. Orcutt presented a proposal for a task force to include the town accountant, a selectman, a FinCom member, and a UIRSD member.

Although it was the school committee members’ consensus not to serve on the task force, they encouraged FinCom members and selectmen to attend their budget meetings. Ms. Tierney said task force members have participated in budget discussions this year, and that the West Tisbury selectmen issued a statement asking regional entities such as the school district to keep budgets in line with last year.