Tisbury fiscal year 2012 budget increase driven by education costs


Tisbury’s proposed fiscal year 2012 (FY12) operating budget of $20,451,676 is up by 1.8 percent, compared to $20,086,419 for FY11, largely due to increased education costs.

The budget that goes before town voters for approval on April 12 includes $20,276,676 in budgeted taxpayer dollars, plus a transfer of $175,000 from the reserve for sewer betterments.

Tisbury’s finance and advisory committee (FinCom) recommended that town departments reduce their FY12 budgets by 1 percent, and all of them did quite well, committee chairman Larry Gomez said this week.

Although a few departments’ budgets were slightly over the FinCom’s recommendation, others were down by 4 or 5 percent, which balanced things out, he explained.

“We don’t want to decrease services and be hard-nosed about it,” Mr. Gomez said. “We just wanted people to be very cautious in preparing their budgets and to think of the taxpayer out there.”

Rising education costs

The largest shares of Tisbury’s operating budget go towards education, employee benefits, and public safety.

Educating approximately 319 students at Tisbury School, based on the October 2010 school census, will cost $5.26 million, an increase from $4.98 million in FY11 for an enrollment of 296 students in October 2009.

“The biggest increase we had was in the superintendent’s portion of the Tisbury School budget,” municipal finance director Tim McLean said in a phone conversation with The Times last week. “The overall Tisbury School budget is up 4.7 percent, but the Tisbury School part of it, excluding the superintendent’s shared services costs, is up 4.2 percent, which includes the settlement of union contracts.”

The FY12 budget includes a two-percent wage increase for teachers and secretaries under the terms of new three-year union contracts ratified last year.

Superintendent of schools James Weiss’s budget includes expenses for his office and also shared services his office provides to Island schools on a regional basis, for example, special education (SPED), administrative support, and enrichment programs.

Depending on the type of school program, some costs are split between five school districts, including the high school, while shared elementary school programs are divided among the four elementary school districts.

The costs for school programs are divided among the Island school districts based on enrollment. Consequently, enrollment fluctuations affect the cost shares allocated to each of them.

Mr. McLean said the superintendent’s shared services costs for Tisbury School increased by $104,551, or 14.4 percent, from $724,901 in FY11 to $829,452 in FY12. Most of the increase is due to additions and changes in SPED programs, in keeping with Federal and state mandates. Those include a second program for students with significant autism spectrum concerns, an expanded summer school program, and the addition of a physical therapist to the superintendent’s staff (see related article, “Special ed drives increase in superintendent’s budget,” published October 28, 2010).

Although costs are up at the elementary school, Tisbury’s FY12 assessment for the regional high school, $3,096,929, is $93,788 less than in FY11.

Statutory assessments are determined by a complex formula that takes a number of factors into account, including enrollment. The number of high school students from Tisbury dropped from 170 in 2009 to 159 in 2010.

The people factor

In addition to schools, salaries, wages, and benefits for town employees account for a sizable portion of the total budget.

The town’s personnel board and the various unions and employees negotiate most of the increases, often in multi-year contracts. Negotiations between the town, the Tisbury Police Union and the general union for municipal employees are currently in progress.

This year the town’s personnel board recommended a 1.7 percent cost of living adjustment (COLA) for full-time managerial and professional employees, Mr. McLean said. Salaries range from $38,503 for a starting position at grade M-1, step 1, to a top salary of $112,544 at grade M-11, step 7, for a town administrator.

Annual longevity pay remains at $2,000 after 10 years or more employment as of July 1, $3,000 after 15 years or more, and $4,000 after 20 years or more.

Tisbury used the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Price Index published in February for all urban consumers in the Boston-Brockton-Nashua region as guidance for determining a COLA percentage.

The personnel board did not recommend any wage increases in the FY12 classification and compensation plan for non-union part-time, seasonal and temporary employees, last amended at town meeting in 2008.

For casual labor, minimum wage remains at $8.14 an hour and maximum wage at $10.53 an hour.

Like many towns and cities, Tisbury faces escalating insurance costs. The line item for health/life insurance went up by $87,800.

The line item for unemployment insurance also is increased by $12,000, to replenish the town’s self-insurance fund after a large number of claims in 2010 depleted it.

Public safety costs

Under the public safety heading, police, fire, ambulance/EMT, and emergency management services add up to $1,939,565. The police department budget is $1,378,650, an increase of about $61,000 over FY11, mostly due to contractual wage increases.

In anticipation of the completion of Tisbury’s new emergency services facility (ESF) in September, the fire department’s budget is up from $194,351 in FY11 to $237,161.

“We had to build in extra money for heat and electricity to operate the new fire station, so that was a big chunk for a first time hit,” Mr. McLean said. “The fire department’s expense budget went from $58,000 to $101,000.”

The additional funds are a best guess based on calculations done by the building’s design team, he said, and the ESF’s operating expenses will be fine-tuned in future budgets after utility bills for actual usage are reviewed.

Updated April 1, 2011

This story was corrected from the print version, which listed $2,276,676, instead of $20,276,676, as the amount of budgeted taxpayer dollars in the FY12 budget.