Chilmark approves school budget hike
Chilmark voters approved the town's regional high school assessment at a special town meeting Thursday, paving the way for the high school's budget to go into effect at the July 1 start of the new fiscal year.
The article passed unanimously on a voice vote, although not without reservations expressed by the finance advisory committee (FinCom) and selectman J.B. Riggs Parker. Moderator Everett Poole read the FinCom's statement that said they had voted to "reluctantly" recommend the new assessment on a "one-time-basis" with a request that the selectmen work to correct "this inequitable situation created by the Commonwealth through the implementation of the 'statutory formula' in violation of our long-standing regional high school agreement."
Mr. Parker said he also reluctantly supported the article because he felt the town should not stand in the way of the school budgeting process.
Chilmark's vote ended a contentious battle this year among Island towns over how to divvy up the regional school assessment. State Department of Education guidelines required that a majority of towns in a regional school district, which equated to four of the six Island towns, must approve the high school budget using the state's new formula to determine town assessments. Using the Island's long-standing regional formula agreement would have required unanimous approval from all six towns.
Oak Bluffs voters rejected the use of the Island's existing regional formula agreement in April because the town stood to save some $400,000 under the state assessment method. Aquinnah and West Tisbury voters also endorsed the state formula. The high school's budget remained in limbo until one more town approved it.
At a special town meeting Tuesday, Tisbury voters rejected their share of the high school assessment under the new rule, which increased Tisbury's costs by $241,000. Chilmark's approval of the high school budget Thursday, which increases the town's assessment by $75,000 from $366,628, broke the deadlock.
Edgartown also scheduled a special town meeting Thursday, which included an article on the high school assessment, but the meeting did not act on the evening's business because it lacked a quorum. It was 15 short of the 141 voters needed to conduct the meeting.
Chilmark's meeting drew 60 voters, substantially more than the 25 needed to reach a quorum, according to executive secretary Timothy Carroll. The entire meeting lasted about half an hour.
Chilmark also approved an article along with an amendment that will allow the Martha's Vineyard Refuse Disposal and Resource Recovery District to borrow not more than $1.53 million to purchase land for expansion of the facility on West Tisbury Road. Selectman chairman Warren Doty's amendment called for the district to use the new land for initiatives to improve its recycling program, including a composting facility for processing organic waste and a center for recycling used building materials. Selectman Frank Fenner proposed an amendment to Mr. Doty's proposal that included slightly changed wording. Both amendments passed.
The amendment would not be binding, town council Ronald Rappaport said, because it included the words "although not a condition to the town's approval of the borrowing authorized by the refuse district."