Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School committee wraps up year

— File photo by Ralph Stewart

In preparation for closing out the books for fiscal year 2012 (FY12) on June 30, accounts manager Mark Friedman gave the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) school committee a list of budget line items in deficit. They added up to $441,436. To cover the deficits, Mr. Friedman asked the committee, at its June 25 meeting, for transfers from line items where there were unspent appropriations, such as heating, utilities, and medical insurance.

The $441,436 does not include additional expenses for students who require special education services at facilities off Island, which Mr. Friedman estimated would run the residential care expense line over budget by $300,954.

But, he said he expected savings in various line items found throughout the FY12 general fund would offset approximately $240,000 of the residential care budget overruns. The remaining $60,000 or so will be offset by FY12 general fund revenues that came in higher than expected, Mr. Friedman added.

Although the state’s Special Education Circuit Breaker Funds will help the high school defray the extra FY12 residential care expenses, Mr. Friedman said the funds lag a year behind, and the school will not be reimbursed until FY13, the budget year that begins July 1.

He attributed the big spike in the expenses to the unanticipated addition this year of as many as five students at the high school who required residential care. Superintendent of schools James Weiss said three of these students were already placed in residential care programs when their parents moved to the Island this school year, so the high school had to assume the cost for the rest of the year.

In keeping with tradition, the school committee also reviewed and approved a proposed capital budget for fiscal years 2013-2017. Mr. Friedman said there were several projects that required a change in priority status since last year’s capital budget was planned.

He recommended that a roof replacement project be added to the list. Because of serious leaks all around the school building this year, Mr. Friedman said a $9,500 roof evaluation slated for FY13 was done this year with funds from the operating budget.

Based on that evaluation, a roofing expert recommended that most of the roof be replaced, at a cost that may range from $1.3 to $1.9 million, depending on the scope of the project. Since that is not an expense that could be covered by excess and deficiency funds, Mr. Friedman suggested the land use committee start discussions in the fall about bonding to start the project in FY14.

In the meantime, he said the high school has $50,000 set aside in capital funds for roof repairs. That will be used to address the worst of the leaks.

Two other additions to the capital projects list include $20,000 for the planning and design of a new superintendent’s office building on the high school grounds in FY13, and a bond for $6.8 million to construct the building in FY14.

The superintendent’s staff started to look at options for a new location several years ago, getting an appraisal done on the current building on Pine Street in Vineyard Haven, which is owned by the high school.At one point the old Edgartown School was under consideration, but then the town decided to put a new library there.

Mr. Weiss and staff also did an inventory of space in the Island’s public school buildings and checked Island properties available for lease, but found nothing suitable. In the spring of 2011 voters at town meetings voted to appropriate funds for a feasibility study on building a new superintendent’s office building.

The architectural firm of Kennan and Kenny conducted the study and plans to release a report soon. Mr. Weiss said the school building committee would convene as soon as the report comes out.

Amy Tierney, the school business administrator, said she expects to get a cost estimate for the new building in the next two weeks and put the $6.8 million figure in the capital budget as a placeholder until she has a firm number. In the meantime, she said the $20,000 included in the capital plan would be needed for plans and designs to keep the building project going.

Roxanne Ackerman, a school committee member, said the school committee should look at all the options and criticized the lack of process. She said the building committee should comment.

Mr. Weiss explained that it would, but that until the feasibility study report came out, there is nothing to consider.

Mr. Friedman said the school’s excess and deficiency funds were certified at $691,929, with $15,000 going to prior approved projects.

Looking at capital projects in terms of priority, Mr. Friedman said the high school recommended appropriating excess and deficiency funds for improved handicapped access, $10,000; a bathroom in a special education classroom, $25,000; the superintendent’s office building planning and design, $20,000; and other post-employment benefits liability, $105,789, for a total of $173,789. That leaves $518,140 available.

School committee members Dave Rossi, Colleen McAndrews, Susan Mercier, and Dan Cabot voted in favor of the capital budget outline. Roxanne Ackerman voted against it.