High school committee certifies budget
The Martha's Vineyard Regional High School District school committee voted to certify the fiscal year 2010 (FY10) budget at a meeting Monday night. Total operating expenses came in at $16,460,783, a 1.74-percent increase over FY09, and total assessed expenses at $12,479,121, a 1.93-percent increase over last year.
Seven school committee members voted in favor of the budget and Jeffrey "Skipper" Manter cast the lone dissenting vote. Mr. Manter, a West Tisbury selectman and long-time West Tisbury school committee member, objected to continuing the school district's practice of using excess and deficiency funds to offset budget increases. He also expressed concern that there is no money set aside in the budget for unfunded liability for post-employment benefits, in accordance with Government Accounting Standards Board recommendations.
In addition to making suggestions for improving the budget format, Mr. Manter joined several school committee members in praising principal Steve Nixon for a job well done in his budget presentation at a public hearing on November 24.
School business administrator Amy Tierney noted Martha's Vineyard's towns' assessments have not yet been determined, pending state statutory assessments from the Massachusetts Department of Education expected in late January. However, with the budget finalized, Mr. Weiss suggested that the school committee discuss choosing an assessment formula to determine how costs will be apportioned to the towns.
Martha's Vineyard towns formerly used a regional formula based on a per-pupil cost. The state's mandated statutory assessment formula takes property values and personal income levels into account.
Under regulations approved by the state Board of Education in January 2007, school committees must vote on which formula to recommend to their member towns. In order to stick to Martha's Vineyard's former regional agreement, all six towns would have to agree. The statutory formula requires approval by four out of the six towns.
The disparity in town assessments under the statutory formula resulted in a fractured and contentious budget process that year. Martha's Vineyard's towns' failure to reach a unanimous agreement resulted in going with the statutory formula.
When it came time to choose a formula last February, several school committee members said they wanted to avoid a repeat performance of the 2007 battle and voted to use the statutory formula.
"Based on past history, I don't believe we would get unanimous consent," Mr. Weiss reminded the school committee Monday night. The committee voted unanimously to recommend the statutory formula to the towns.
In keeping with Mr. Nixon's new practice this year of featuring different departments at monthly school committee meetings, the business education/technology and special education faculty members presented reports about their programs and activities.
In other business, Mr. Weiss said that a recent audit report called attention to the high school district's lack of a disaster management plan, particularly in regard to the organization and storage of financial documents. The school committee gave him approval to seek proposals for records management for both the regional high school district and the Up-Island Regional School District.
In Mr. Nixon's principal's report, he noted that grade 11 student Patrick Hart, the son of interim assistant principal Carlin Hart, received second place for his essay on sportsmanship in the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association's (MIAA) sportsmanship essay contest. Another grade 11 student, Gail Herman, was named a finalist in the contest.
Mr. Nixon also introduced Matt Malowski, who coordinates the high school's STAR (Students and Teachers Achieving Results) program, to the school committee. The STAR program provides extra academic help for a group of 13 ninth and tenth grade students.
Mr. Malowski said he wants to involve members of the Martha's Vineyard community in the students' lives through an extracurricular program he has set up based on the National Public Radio series, "This I Believe." He invited school committee members and the public to join him on Tuesday nights from 7-8 pm in the library conference room for discussions about their personal beliefs. Mr. Malowski encouraged everyone to come and just listen at first, and then if they feel comfortable, to join in the discussions and perhaps write an essay at some point.
Athletic director Mike Joyce provided an update on the high school's effort to join the Eastern Athletic Conference (EAC) league. Mr. Joyce said all that remains is final approval from an advisory committee of the MIAA. Once approved, official league play would begin next fall, although the high school will be playing two of four EAC league schools in all sports next spring, Mr. Joyce said.
In answer to questions about the issue of transporting sports teams to Nantucket, Mr. Joyce said next year will be "a little bit of a trial." In order to keep costs down, he proposed eliminating funds for air travel to Nantucket from the budget next year. Instead, Mr. Joyce said he is looking at the idea of scheduling several games involving several different teams on the same day, preferably on a weekend, and transporting them to Nantucket by fast ferry.
The school committee's next meeting will be held January 5.