MVRHS budget approval stalled by state rule

Full committee vote is required.


A final vote on approval of the fiscal year 2019 Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) operating budget on Monday night was postponed because the required number of school committee members were not in attendance. The committee will take up budget certification again at its Dec. 11 meeting at 4:30 pm.

The school committee is arranging another meeting to comply with state regulations, which require every member of a school committee to vote on budgets. While the school committee had a quorum for the meeting, only seven of the nine-member board attended Monday night’s meeting in the MVRHS library meeting room.

After members present voted 5-1-1 in favor of the budget, board member Jeffrey S. (Skipper) Manter reminded the meeting of the state law requirement. Mr. Manter of West Tisbury cast the lone dissenting vote. New Oak Bluffs representative Kathryn Shertzer, attending her first MVRHS school committee meeting, abstained from the vote. Ms. Shertzer replaces Michael Hoyt, who left the committee recently.

The school committee made only one change to the budget, transferring a project to replace coolers in the school’s cafeteria and culinary area from the excess and deficiencies (E&D) account to a line item in the operating budget.

That move added $43,377.21, to increase the final budget to $21.2 million. The committee moved E&D funds earmarked and available for the project, and will not increase the amount of funds needed to be raised for the budget.

State law requires regional school districts to maintain an excess and deficiency (E&D) account. In cities or towns, this fund is referred to as Free Cash, and in private business is similar to retained earnings. At the end of every fiscal year, any surplus or deficit in the district’s general fund goes into the unreserved fund balance, referred to as the excess and deficiency (E&D) fund.

The proposed budget, which has undergone six iterations and reviews, is 7.36 percent higher than than the FY 2018 operating budget. About 6 percent of the 7.36 percent relates to contractual obligations of pay raises, a 15 percent increase in health insurance premiums, and contributions to retired employee benefits and pension obligations.

On a line-by-line comparison, the budget is 1.76 percent greater than the current year. MVRHS Principal Sara Dingledy last week described the budget as a ”responsible, sustainable, and accurate reflection of school costs.”

Mr. Manter, a noted fiscal conservative, applauded the administration’s effort to reduce electricity costs by $44,000 as a result of green energy initiatives. “Often people say they’re going to do something, and that’s the last you hear, but you followed through,” he said.

The board agreed to begin revisiting the existing regional agreement between the high school and the six Island towns. The agreement has been in place since 1994. Amy Houghton, meeting chairman, said the “shared costs and allocations may be outdated or not relevant now. We can take a look at all the allocations,” she said.

Ms. Houghton envisioned the review being completed in time for 2020 annual town meetings. “My town has asked me to do this, and we should do it now so we have time enough to make thoughtful changes and time to work through this, and in time for towns to plan warrant articles for 2020 town meetings,” she said

After a short discussion, the committee agreed that the entire committee rather than a subcommittee would undertake the review, probably after the new year.

In other business, the MVRHS student report noted that a Capture the Flag tournament, spearheaded by junior Colin Henke, raised $400 from the school community that will go toward breast cancer awareness.

The committee also heard an update from student representatives of SWEAR (Stand With Everyone Against Rape) who attended a one-day seminar on the subject, and are delivering the message to classmates at MVRHS. Lizzie Williamson, Gabe Nelson, Joao Goncalves, Dillon McAndrews, and Ian Trance, in collaboration with Connect to End Violence, have met with freshmen and sophomore health classes to discuss healthy relationships and consent.