The Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) budget will increase roughly $1.2 million for the fiscal year 2018 (FY 2018), a 7.1 percent increase from the year before, for a total assessed expense of $17.6 million. The MVRHS school committee will vote on certifying the budget on Monday, Dec. 5, at 7 pm in the library conference room at the high school.
The committee, along with school business administrator Amy Tierney, Superintendent of Schools Matt D’Andrea, MVRHS Principal Sara Dingledy, and MVRHS finance manager Mark Friedman, presented the FY 2018 budget to about 20 people at a public hearing on Monday, Nov. 28, at the Martha’s Vineyard Performing Arts Center, located at the high school.
A large portion of the budget growth is due to increases in health insurance costs, salaries and contractual obligations, teacher retirement, residential-care tuition, and operating and maintaining the facilities.
Mr. Friedman called the rising cost of health insurance a “driving factor” for the increase, by 10 percent, or $357,000, in health insurance premiums — a trend not unique to the Island.
Contractual salary increases came to about $308,000, while the other post-employee benefits (OPEB) trust liability increased by $289,000. Residential-care tuition, the cost to send students who need more specialized education to a different school, rose $243,000.
Operations and maintenance of the high school facilities will increase about $175,000. Ms. Dingledy said that school staff is developing a preventive maintenance plan to tackle projects on a smaller level, which will still cost money, but aims to “extend the life of machinery,” instead of waiting until something breaks.
Projects included are hot water system repairs, exterior window replacements, exterior reshingling, maintaining heating system boilers and air conditioning, parking lot and tennis court repairs, and annual care of the athletic fields, as well as electrical system testing and maintenance.
The largest reduction was $200,000, which was accomplished by combining two positions into already existing ones.
The hearing included little public comment, but those who spoke commended the committee for its work. Tisbury finance director Jon Snyder said that the school budget would force the overall budget for Tisbury to increase over the 2.5 percent state-imposed levy limit, and asked the committee to minimize that risk.
“If it’s now or if it’s later, it’s going to be felt by the taxpayers,” Ms. Dingledy said of maintaining facilities, rising health insurance costs, and OPEB. “So we need to find a way to start planning that now.”
Chuck Hodgkinson, a member of the West Tisbury finance committee, but speaking personally, suggested the school committee try to reduce the expenses as much as $300,000, out of the excess and deficiency (E and D) fund.
Robert Lionette, chairman of the MVRHS school committee, echoed Ms. Dingledy’s comments — that they have inherited the responsibility of keeping the building functioning, as well as honoring contractual obligations, which he described as a “bitter pill,” but one they’d have to swallow.