West Tisbury voters approve trimmed school budget at special town meeting

Having rejected the budget at the ballot box last month, voters Tuesday agreed to a pared down school budget.

West Tisbury town moderator Dan Waters, flanked by (l-r) selectmen Jeffrey "Skipper" Manter and Richard Knabel and town counsel Ron Rappaport, presided over a special town meeting Tuesday called to fund the school budget. photo by Tony Omer.

West Tisbury voters passed the town’s $6.8 million share of the Up-Island Regional School District (UIRSD) budget at special town meeting Tuesday night with one dissenting vote.

Voters unanimously agreed to take no action on the only other article on the warrant, a request to withdraw from the school district, which includes Aquinnah and Chilmark.

The meeting was scheduled to begin at 7 pm. However, the required quorum of 124 voters was not present. A quick round of cellphone calls made by townspeople to friends, neighbors and relatives roused up enough voters — some leaving unfinished dinner on their plates —  and moderator Dan Waters called the meeting to order at 7:23 pm.

Applause greeted the late-comers as they entered the gym at the West Tisbury School, prompting one West Tisbury wag, Paul Garcia, to comment, “Showing up late is a way to get popular in this town.”

The budget article was amended on the floor. UIRSD board chairman Michael Marcus asked that a little more than $605.89 in adjustments be added to the budget figure. He didn’t say why and was not asked. The amendment passed unanimously.

Prior to the vote to take no action to withdraw from the school district, selectman Richard Knabel some background on the article. He said selectmen had proposed the measure because of what many consider to be unnecessary costs for the town, but they were now recommending that no action be taken on the article until a future date when the implications of the separation could be better understood.

In April, voters passed the school budget at annual town meeting but rejected a proposition 2.5 override request at the ballot box. School committee members went to work and trimmed $300,000 bringing the budget under the prop. 2.5 limit.

Mr. Marcus struck an apologetic tone with regard to the budget impasse that resulted in the need for a special town meeting. “The committee will be immediately ramping up its review of the fiscal year 2017 budget to try to get firmly ahead of the process for next year,” he said. “I will be working with my colleagues to avoid this type of outcome next year.”

A rousing round of applause followed Mr. Marcus’s acknowledgement of the eight years of service of retiring board member Dan Cabot.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank Dr. Jim Weiss for his many, many years of supremely dedicated and tireless service to the entire Island community, for all that he has delivered to foster and further excellence in education on Martha’s Vineyard,” Mr. Marcus said spurring a standing ovation for the superintendent of schools who will retire at the end of this month.

There was a unanimous vote to adjourn the meeting at 7:33 pm.