School funding is subject of Island forum
The Martha's Vineyard Finance Association (MVFA), a voluntary association of finance committees from the six Island towns, will sponsor a public forum on the proposed new regulations governing regional school district funding Wednesday at 7 pm in the Martha's Vineyard Regional High School cafeteria.
State Representative Eric Turkington and Associate Commissioner of Education Jeff Wulfson are scheduled to attend.
If adopted, the wealth-based formula could significantly change the way school costs are now divided. For example, Aquinnah could expect to save an estimated $93,000 this year under the formula, leaving West Tisbury and Chilmark to pick up an even bigger share of the costs of the Up-Island Regional School District (UIRSD). Using the same formula, Chilmark's assessment would increase by $24,575 and West Tisbury's by $69,149.
The current UIRSD formula is based on enrollment, dividing the total number of students enrolled by town by the total district enrollment. The DOE formula blends enrollment and wealth, in terms of real estate and median income by town. Capital costs and transportation, however, continue to be calculated under the terms of a school district's regional agreement.
According to a press release from MVFA member Richard Knable of West Tisbury, adoption of the new formula could also easily prolong the budget approval process well beyond the annual spring town meeting season. He said that in the proposed scheme, member towns may unanimously choose to remain with existing regional agreements every year, but the statutory wealth formula will require only a two-thirds approval of member towns.
Since one or more member towns will benefit from one or the other methods of allocating costs, Mr. Knable said that it is possible that the two regional school districts on the Island will achieve neither unanimous consent to existing agreements nor two-thirds approval of the statutory formula at their annual town meetings. This would then require special town meetings to resolve the problem.