Split from Chilmark urged

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To the Editor:

Rich Saltzberg’s article, “School budget concerns trigger up-Island selectmen’s meeting” on Nov. 1, reports on a meeting of the Aquinnah, Chilmark and West Tisbury selectmen to discuss funding for the Up-Island School District (UISD). Funding of the UISD has been an issue for many years, and has recently resurfaced due to a report commissioned by the West Tisbury selectmen dated Jan. 12, which concluded that the taxpayers of West Tisbury were subsidizing the Chilmark School by approximately $700,000 per year. This is not the first study which pointed out that the cost of the Chilmark School was a substantial burden on the taxpayers of West Tisbury. An April 2006 report by Harkins, Kelley and Associates concluded that the UISD would save more than $900,000 per year (and that was more than 10 years ago) by closing the Chilmark School.

I attended a West Tisbury selectmen’s meeting on Oct. 11, and asked the selectmen to provide an example of any benefit West Tisbury was receiving from being a member of the UISD. None of them could cite any benefit to remaining.

Chilmark selectman Bill Rossi doesn’t want to use the Jan. 12 report “even … as a jumping-off point … because it reflects the interests of the West Tisbury taxpayer only.”

That of course is what the West Tisbury selectmen have an obligation to do — protect the interests of the West Tisbury taxpayer. If Chilmark wants its own school, they must be willing to pay for it, and not ask West Tisbury to subsidize them.

I urge the West Tisbury selectmen to add an article to the town meeting warrant authorizing withdrawal from the Up-Island School District in order to save its taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars each year.

I would also like to emphasize that withdrawing from the UISD will not impact the funding of the West Tisbury School. In fact, some or all of the saving could be used to increase support of the West Tisbury School, rather than subsidizing the Chilmark School.

John Rau
West Tisbury