To the editor:
There is no doubt that the Tisbury School has serious infrastructure issues that need to be addressed. Any solution will be expensive. I wish I could support the School Building Committee’s proposal, but I cannot endorse the sticker price. $47 million is a staggering amount of money for a school with no appreciable projected increase in student enrollment over the next 15 years. Our $33 million portion of that cost is also staggering, and I would like to point out that the state’s share comes from taxpayer dollars as well, not some munificent donation.
The School Building Committee set out to give us the very best design they could, and that is certainly not to be faulted, but that effort was done in a vacuum. Town finances were looked at after the fact, not beforehand. Folks are going to have to pay anywhere from $10,000 to $20,000, depending on their home valuation, over the next 20 years just for this school project, and the additional tax will drive already scarce rental and housing prices upward.
What we would like with an unlimited budget and what we can afford are two different things. When you go for a mortgage, you look at your bank account and your earning power and you buy what you can manage to pay for, not something that will hamstring your budget and lifestyle for many years.
I get the passion and desire of the parents and teachers who support the current proposal, and I take no delight in opposing that plan. I believe we can come up with a good plan that satisfies educational requirements but has a more responsible bottom line. Tisbury has many needs and many constituencies, including a rapidly growing 65-plus demographic. We are the most built-out town on the island, confined to only seven square miles, and those factors hamper our ability to expand the tax base. We have the highest tax rate, and yes we need to spend some serious dollars to take care of the deficiencies at our school, but some balance of perspective is needed. Also we need more from our regional administrators, to look at better cost-sharing and less duplication of effort on an Islandwide basis.
I believe we can take what we have learned so far during this process and come up with a more modest proposal that satisfies the needs for a healthy and modern learning environment for our kids but doesn’t strain the resources of the town beyond a reasonable level. Reluctantly, I am voting no on question one on April 24.