Up-Island School Committee debates covering Chilmark HVAC costs

The discussion focused on how to split excess and deficiency funds between West Tisbury and Chilmark schools.


At a meeting of the Up-Island Regional School District (UIRSD) committee Monday night, a long discussion unraveled over how to best cover the costs of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system repairs done at the Chilmark School earlier this year. The Chilmark School budget is currently running a $67,000 deficit arising from HVAC repair costs.

The committee previously discussed using excess and deficiency funds — leftover taxpayer money that is certified by the state — to cover the costs. The total cost for the HVAC work is around $102,000, and a new boiler cost an additional $27,717.

In the past, excess and deficiency funds have been used to cover similar emergency projects and repairs at the West Tisbury and Chilmark schools. This year, the certified excess and deficiency funds are estimated to be around $200,000.

Jeffrey “Skipper” Manter of West Tisbury took issue with how the excess and deficiency funds are divided up between the towns, which he said should be about 80 percent for West Tisbury and 20 percent for Chilmark, based on school population percentages. The UIRSD has never certified a percentage policy in a vote.

“We had a 10-year look-back that was given to us two or three months ago, and there was no discernible pattern in the history that this committee has acted in the usage of its E and D funds on a percentage basis,” committee chairman Robert Lionette of Chilmark said.

Some committee members said that this year’s decision should be consistent with prior years until a policy is put in place.

“Last year we just took a certain sum of money out of E and D for the purpose of repairing the West Tisbury site, and we didn’t do it in a percentage way, so technically if it’s what we did last year for the West Tisbury site, we should behave in the same manner toward the Chilmark site,” Kate DeVane of West Tisbury said.

“I know we are constantly battling town against town about who pays for what, but we are truly a district that is responsible for two schools as it stands now, and E and D to me is a source of money to be used in emergencies, and clearly a heating situation is an emergency situation,” Theresa Manning of Aquinnah said.

Mr. Manter emphasized that the bill should be proportionately paid by the taxpayers, and said that after deducting the appropriate percentages for each school, the town of Chilmark should pay the additional expense money to cover the HVAC costs, “so that each town is truly paying the correct percentage of the capital funding.”

“We are a district, however the taxpayers pay different portions of the bill, and the E and D, the bulk of that, comes from the taxpayers in West Tisbury,” Mr. Manter said.

Superintendent of Schools Matt D’Andrea said last year $200,000 was used for West Tisbury bathroom renovations, in the prior year $30,000 for West Tisbury kitchen and hot water repairs, and in fiscal year 2013 $70,000 for two West Tisbury special education employees. “It has been heavy on West Tisbury,” Mr. D’Andrea said.

The committee members and Mr. D’Andrea agreed on the need to look into implementing a policy moving forward, but decided to hold off on any budgetary or policy decisions and revisit the discussion at a later meeting, after the official excess and deficiency fund total is certified by the state.