Go figure: Up-Island towns working on puzzling math problem

How to allocate funds fairly to keep Chilmark and West Tisbury schools operating.

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The Chilmark School has about 45 students, kindergarten through fifth grade. Up-Island towns are in constant talks about how to balance spending. — Stacey Rupolo

The Up-Island Regional School District (UIRSD) and selectmen from Aquinnah, West Tisbury, and Chilmark heard a proposal for an education “threshold” cost from Chilmark selectmen at the UIRSD meeting yesterday.

The Chilmark plan addresses the regional district’s cost allocation formula, under which up to 100 students from Aquinnah and Chilmark attend the West Tisbury School. Chilmark sends between 43 and 62 students per year to West Tisbury. Aquinnah currently enrolls 39 children in West Tisbury.

A 15-year analysis by Chilmark of its student population charted an average of 50 Chilmark students per year attending West Tisbury School, with the high and low enrollments as relative outliers, and which could serve as the threshold population. Chilmark operates one school with a small, capped enrollment. Aquinnah does not have a public school.

The Chilmark plan offers to pay additional costs if the operating cost per student at the Chilmark School exceeds West Tisbury’s cost per pupil. If West Tisbury’s operating cost exceeds the Chilmark School’s cost, West Tisbury would absorb the overage. Reconciliation payments would be paid in the subsequent fiscal year.

UIRSD cost allocation can be a financial Rubik’s Cube for the towns, given the number of variables in the mix, including changing student-population and school-choice state law provisions, disparate cost per student in various towns, and the cost of teacher benefits, among other things.

As a result, the cost allocation discussion against these moving targets can be frustrating and sometimes fractious, which was not the case on Wednesday afternoon, as the gathering also discussed how to address (Chilmark) Charter School and reimbursement allocation, Medicaid revenue allocation, and Wampanoag tribal impact funds, currently allocated 100 percent to Aquinnah, and inconsistencies in allocation of employee benefits and other costs.

The UIRSD will meet again on Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018, at 3 pm at the We