Town stabilization funds proposed to fund high school repairs

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The Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School school committee is expected to vote next week on a subcommittee proposal to ask Island towns to establish stabilization fund line items in their budgets in order to plan funding for big-ticket maintenance and repairs at the high school.

If the school committee passes the proposal at its meeting on Monday at 5 pm at the high school, warrant articles will be submitted for consideration by voters at all six Island annual town meetings this spring.

The proposal was developed by the MVRHS budget subcommittee this week as a way for towns to plan and prepare for predictable high-cost maintenance and repairs, such as HVAC or reshingling the high school. The proposal is unrelated to a complete high school renovation under discussion.

The warrant articles would ask voters only to establish a stabilization fund line item for big-ticket high school projects, and would not include money requests.

The proposal followed an hourlong discussion of current funding tools that include MVRHS budgets, bonding of high-ticket projects, and use of excess and deficiencies (E&D) accounts. Under the subcommittee plan, the MVRHS budget would continue to provide funding for its normal repairs and upkeep.

Discussion of the idea on Monday centered on stabilization funds as a way to provide preplanning and as a more efficient and transparent method for maintenance and upkeep.

MVRHS Principal Sara Dingledy described the proposal as “a way for us to be proactive rather than reactive.”

Superintendent Matt D’Andrea said a new approach is needed. Noting that E&D funds are sometimes overlooked in funding projects, D’Andrea said, “E&D has not worked well in the past. Either we need to make [E&D] work in partnership with maintenance funding, or don’t do [E&D] anymore, and have the stabilization fund.”

MVRHS finance manager Mark Friedman offered the subcommittee perspective based on his nine years at the high school. “Essentially there have been two sources of funding projects — the annual [high school] budget or E&D. We have a long established history of E&D funding for projects. The operating budget was used for small projects, large projects were bonded, but we had no mechanism other than E&D for, say, $100,000 projects, and we continue not to have a mechanism,” he said.