West Tisbury school budget spurs call for Up-Island district defection

West Tisbury town leaders will give voters an opportunity to determine how best to rein in burgeoning school costs at special town meeting on June 2.

A number of repairs to the heating system at the Chilmark school have to be done. – MV Times file photo

Updated 8:30 am, Thursday

West Tisbury selectmen met Wednesday and voted to call for a special town meeting on Tuesday, June 2, that will include an article to withdraw the town from the Up-Island Regional School District (UIRSD). The warrant will also include an article to revote on a reduced UIRSD budget.

A school budget that exceeded the Proposition 2.5 limit by $300,000 passed at town meeting on April 14, but voters said no to a Proposition 2.5 override at the ballot box two days later.

Selectmen decided to use $6,820,060 as the figure for the new article, to eliminate the need for an override vote. The UIRSD will meet on the school budget Thursday, and may amend the budget article on the town meeting floor. If the town votes on a budget over the article amount, a ballot vote would be required, or the town would have to cut expenses in other departments to bring the town’s budget under the Prop. 2.5 threshold.

Voter approval to withdraw from the district would only be a first step. If a second town does not approval a town’s withdrawal the town may withdraw on a second vote after a six month waiting period, according to the district charter.

The district includes Chilmark and Aquinnah. Selectman Jeffrey “Skipper” Manter said that withdrawing from the district is a longtime desire of residents of the town who think that West Tisbury pays a disproportionate share of the district’s expenses, which include a share of the cost of maintaining the Chilmark School, a six-room, K-5 school with an approximate enrollment of 62 students and an operating budget of $1.2 million. The staff includes four full time teachers, four full time teaching assistants, a variety of part time teachers, a principal, secretary and custodian.

Selectmen Richard Knabel and Mr. Manter were in attendance. Cynthia Mitchell was absent.

Correction: An earlier version of this story reported the school had a staff of 22. Principal Susan Stevens explained that a variety of part time teachers may visit the school for only one or two class sessions.