Regional high school committee votes to certify $18.5 million FY2016 budget

Although the operating budget increased by only a quarter of a percent, Island towns will see a five percent increase in assessments next year.

Martha's Vineyard Regional High School. — File photo by Susan Safford

The Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) school committee unanimously approved a fiscal year 2016 (FY16) budget on Monday night, after a brief discussion.

The committee voted 9-0 to certify a total operating budget of $18,589,492, an increase of $43,242, or .23 percent, over FY15. The committee also voted to certify a total of $16,038,670 that will be assessed to Island towns, an increase of $769,262, or 5.04 percent, over FY15.

MVRHS account manager Mark Friedman said the biggest change in the high school’s FY16 budget is in revenue and reimbursements, which total $2,550,822. That amount reflects a decrease of $726,020, or 22.16 percent, from FY15, due to the end of state reimbursements for the addition of the gym and performing arts center in the 1990s, he explained.

Although the total operating expenses are going up only slightly, the drop in revenue, and the end of the annual reimbursements in particular, resulted in an increase in net expenses assessed to the towns.

Superintendent of schools James Weiss reminded the committee that they previously voted to use the state’s statutory formula to determine the town assessments for FY16, pending Governor Deval Patrick’s release of his state budget.

Total statutory assessments are determined by a complex formula that takes a number of factors into account, including enrollment, local contributions from the towns, net school spending apportionments, transportation, other operating costs, capital costs, and debt service costs.

Since enrollment from each town figures into the formula and drives assessments up or down accordingly, Mr. Weiss noted that changes this school year include an increase of five students from Aquinnah, 11 students from Oak Bluffs, and one student from West Tisbury. Chilmark has 11 fewer students and Tisbury’s enrollment remained the same.

Mr. Friedman noted that the sixth and final version of the FY16 budget had been updated to include the high school’s portion of the superintendent’s office and shared services budget, approved by the All-Island School Committee on November 20. Mr. Friedman said the adjustment decreased the budget by about $200 since it was presented at a public hearing last week by principal Gil Traverso.

The FY16 budget also includes $175,000 for maintenance and building repairs to be determined and made on a priority basis.

In the principal’s report, Mr. Traverso announced that 20 MVRHS players from six teams were named “All Star Athletes” by the Eastern Athletic Conference. Assistant principals Elliott Bennett and Andrew Berry read off their names.

Mr. Traverso also gave the committee members a page-long list of facility issues that he said would be analyzed in more detail and organized by priority. In regard to parent conferences held November 17–21, Mr. Traverso said they were a success overall but not as well-attended as last year’s, with 28 fewer parents and 46 fewer students.

In other business, the committee approved a proposal to add winter track as a club sport for a year. The team will participate in five meets to be held at Wheaton College.

In a follow-up to several previous discussions about adding student representatives to the school committee, the committee voted to approve the addition of senior Russell Shapiro and junior Kyra Whalen as non-voting members. Mr. Traverso said they were elected to serve by the student government.

The committee also heard reports from Island Grown Schools (IGS) coordinator Noli Taylor and school committee member Lisa Reagan of Oak Bluffs, who serves on the MVRHS wellness committee.

Ms. Taylor said the high school’s IGS program includes activities such as dinners featuring local foods prepared by high school culinary arts students, films and discussions about nutrition, monthly taste tests of local foods in the school cafeteria, and summer programs for teens at Island farms.

Ms. Reagan said the wellness committee’s idea to install a refrigerated vending machine in the cafeteria has been a big success, offering students options for cold and hot snacks before heading to sports practices or other activities after school hours.

The student spotlight this month featured senior Rasmus Sayre, who won the 2014 Kona World Championships in wind-surfing last month in Islamorada, Fla. The event included 108 competitors from 13 countries and four continents.

The school committee concluded the meeting with a vote to elect Ms. Reagan as the new chairman and Robert Lionette as vice chairman. Committee member Susan Mercier of Edgartown thanked outgoing chairman Colleen McAndrews for “three fantastic years.”

The school committee’s next meeting will be on January 5, 2015.