Up-Island School budget unfinished, but Aquinnah’s burden grows

— File photo by Janet Hefler

The Up-Island Regional School District (UIRSD) FY2014 budget, expected to grow some before it is ultimately adopted, now totals $9.2 million, down $146,000 or 1.56 percent from the spending plan for FY 2013.

The up-Island school committee presented the proposed 2014 operating budget at a sparsely attended public hearing held in the West Tisbury School Library on Tuesday.

There will be a shift in the relative assessments to the three up-Island towns in FY 2014, due to changes in the towns’ student populations. The budget assessment to the town of Aquinnah will increase by 29 percent, and Chilmark’s assessment will increase by 10 percent, due to increases in the number of students from those towns. West Tisbury will see a 5.5 percent decrease.

Committee chairman Dan Cabot pointed to several budget items that will most likely change and affect the final numbers before the budget is complete. “We won’t really know the final numbers in the budget until not too long before town meeting,” he said.

Mr. Cabot said that salary negotiations have not been completed with the teachers “so the figures are significantly below what we will expect them to be.” There are five salary bargaining groups that have not yet reached agreements, he said. In addition to the teachers, there are the custodians, cafeteria workers, teachers’ aids, and secretaries.

He also ran down a short list of repairs that are needed to the Chilmark School and he said the work will come close to equaling the $100,000 line item from last year’s budget for renovation work on the West Tisbury School cafeteria. Those repair costs are not in the preliminary budget.

Most of the line items show little change from the current year’s budget, except for shifts in personal expenses. The FY 2014 superintendent-shared services budget increases by $58,816, a 7 percent rise. There are budgeted decreases in the medical insurance line items of more than $57,000, due to the state mandated changes in health care coverage, according to Amy Tierney, Martha Vineyard Public Schools business administrator. Some of the decrease is due to decreases in the cost of coverage and some to the mandated shift of payments to employees, she said.

West Tisbury school Principal Michael Halt spoke about changing class sizes in the different grades at his school and the need to shift personnel. He also talked about the need to increase the amount of time students are exposed to art education, to help fill a perceived deficiency in art knowledge and skills. He mentioned the value of practical art education as a way to improve hand/eye motor skills. The budget includes a one-day-a week increase for an art teacher.

The UIRSD includes the member towns of Aquinnah, Chilmark, and West Tisbury.

Under the terms of its regional agreement, the budget is divided into four parts — superintendent’s office/shared services costs, school committee (district) costs, separate site operating budgets for the two schools, and building debt.

Chilmark School’s FY14 proposed operating budget is $1.125 million, a decrease of 2.6 percent, and West Tisbury School’s is $5.51 million, a decrease of .5 percent. Chilmark and West Tisbury each pay 80 percent of the building debt for their town’s schools.

The UIRSD pays for its own transportation and for health insurance, which is not included in other Island school district budgets.

Who pays what?

The towns’ shares of the superintendent’s and school committee costs are based on the total enrollment per town, divided by the total district enrollment. The towns’ cost shares for the site operating budget are based on the enrollment per town in each school, divided by the district enrollment of each school.

According to the Martha’s Vineyard Public Schools’ October 1 census, the UIRSD enrollment totals 316 students, including 41 school choice students from other Island school districts. That number does not include 44 Martha’s Vineyard Charter School students and 24 school choice students who will be educated in schools outside the district. The district must pay tuition to their out-of-district schools.

Although the UIRSD’s enrollment decreased by two in FY13, the number of students enrolled from Aquinnah has increased from 23 to 30, a 30 percent increase, and Chilmark increased from 59 to 67, a 14 percent increase. West Tisbury’s enrollment has decreased from 192 to 179, a seven percent decrease, leaving Aquinnah and Chilmark with a higher percentage of the district budget to pay.

As a result, West Tisbury’s assessment decreases by $330,072 in FY14, or 5.5 percent. Aquinnah’s FY14 assessment increases by $216,274, a 29 percent jump over FY13, and Chilmark’s by $198,264, a 10 percent increase.

The next UIRSD meeting will be December 17.