Up-Island School Committee makes new plan, meets with tribe
The Up-Island Regional School District (UIRSD) school committee voted to rescind its fiscal year 2010 (FY10) budget due to errors found after its certification last December, and to approve a revised version at a meeting Monday night in Aquinnah.
The new budget reflects a decrease in the total operational budget from $8.41 million to $8.36 million and a reduction from $7.88 million to $7.83 million in town assessments for Aquinnah, Chilmark, and West Tisbury for Chilmark School and West Tisbury School.
Chilmark School has 39 students and West Tisbury School 292 students, according to the October 2008 enrollment census.
In addition to addressing budget concerns, Monday's meeting at the Wampanoag Tribal Administration Building was a first between the UIRSD school committee and the Wampanoag Tribe's new education director, Heidi Vanderhoop, since she was hired about five months ago.
In a financial report from Amy Tierney, Martha's Vineyard Public Schools (MVPS) business administrator, she told the school committee that she discovered that she had transposed some numbers for West Tisbury and Chilmark in reviewing the school district's budget last month.
The UIRSD uses a regional agreement agreed to by the member towns that divides the budget into four parts, the superintendent's office/shared services costs, school committee (district) costs, separate site operating budgets for the two schools, and building debt.
Ms. Tierney said she inadvertently put West Tisbury's debt figure in the Chilmark column and did not update the amount for West Tisbury.
Correcting that error affected the budget's bottom line and also resulted in an increase of $19,000 in Chilmark's assessment.
In the meantime, however, health and dental insurance costs turned out to be a silver lining in the cloud, Ms. Tierney explained. Although FY10 premiums were projected to increase 12 percent on average, rates set on February 25 by the Cape Cod Municipal Health Group reflected increases of 0 to 8 percent, about $45,000 less than expected for the UIRSD's overall healthcare costs.
Since the savings would benefit all three of the school district's member towns, Ms. Tierney suggested lowering the healthcare line in the FY10 budget by $45,000. In a corrected version of the budget with the proposed reductions, Chilmark's assessment increases by about $11,991, West Tisbury's decreases by $53,952 and Aquinnah's decreases by $3,270.
MVPS superintendent James Weiss pointed out that one of the drawbacks in doing that is if additional costs are incurred later, such as an individual changing to a family plan, for example.
"If we make that $45,000 adjustment, you have no play in your healthcare costs, which is certainly something you'll have to deal with, but it would soften the blow of the error that was made," Mr. Weiss said.
Chilmark selectman Warren Doty, who attended the meeting on behalf of the selectmen's board and the town's Finance Committee, said that Chilmark worked hard to come up with a level-funded budget, which also involved budgeting healthcare costs as close as possible. "If you can tell ahead of time you'll have a $45,000 cushion, we'd like to see you budget your healthcare costs as close as possible," he told the school committee.
"I'm very much for easing the sting to Chilmark if we can," said committee member Dan Cabot of West Tisbury, who suggested reducing the healthcare line by $40,000 instead, to allow a cushion.