Up-Island committee debates budget and buses
The Up-Island Regional School District school committee (UIRSD) met on Nov. 13 and Nov. 16 to go over the district's proposed fiscal year 2008 (FY08) budget.
With the focus on buses at the Nov. 13 meeting, the school committee requested that transportation manager Jim Flynn attend the next meeting to answer their questions.
Mr. Flynn began with an overview of how the bus runs work, in terms of handling elementary and high school trips, as well as field trips and other activities. Committee member Skip Manter asked if it would be possible for buses owned by the UIRSD to carry only up-Island students. Mr. Flynn explained that using a combination of buses owned by the regional high school district and the UIRSD maximizes the service provided with the smallest number of buses.
If bus drivers using UIRSD buses only transported up-Island students, Mr. Flynn said he would not have enough drivers and would need an additional three to four buses to cover the high school.
"To drive up costs in one place to decrease costs in another doesn't make sense to me," said Susan Parker, committee chairman. She also agreed that it appeared the UIRSD is paying for both of the high school late runs and only getting the benefit of one.
Turning to the question of purchasing six new school buses, the committee discussed and voted to approve funding the purchase of two buses in the FY08 budget. Two buses will be purchased with $140,000 from Excess and Deficiency funds, and two others purchased by issuing bonds with the regional high school.
West Tisbury School principal Michael Halt and Chilmark principal Diane Gandy attended the Nov. 16 meeting to go over their school budgets. The UIRSD budget is up 2.07 percent over last year. The school committee discussed and agreed to change the technical administrator position at West Tisbury School to a regional coordinator, with the expense moved out of West Tisbury School's budget to the regional school district's budget.
A long discussion ensued over Mr. Manter's assertion that staffing in the West Tisbury School and the Chilmark School should be reduced or classes combined to cut costs in the face of declining enrollment.
Mr. Halt argued that his budget met school improvement goals outlined by the school advisory committee. Ms. Gandy pointed out that class makeup varies, and that combining classes or reducing the number of aides does not always work.
"To go through the budget after it is made up in the 11th hour is after the fact," said Dan Cabot, a new school committee member from West Tisbury.
The committee was unable to wrap up budget deliberations because Mr. Manter wanted more discussion, so another meeting has been scheduled for 6:30 pm on December 18 at West Tisbury School.
Before the Nov. 13 meeting, Mr. Cabot sent a disclosure statement by e-mail to all school committee members informing them he serves as both a member of the UIRSD committee and a member of the Martha's Vineyard Public Charter School board. Mr. Cabot said he checked with the State Ethics Commission when he ran for the school committee position and was assured he could serve on both, provided he did not act as a representative of one committee while attending a meeting of the other.