Tisbury won’t call town meeting for school funds

Israel can’t persuade fellow board members that voters should have final say on E and D funds.

From left, selectman Jim Rogers, chairman Tristan Israel, and selectman Melinda Loberg listen to comments from the crows about use of so-called E & D funds at MVRHS. — George Brennan

The MVRHS school committee won’t have to sweat winning over voters at a special town meeting in Tisbury to discuss use of $350,000 in excess and deficiency (E and D) funds.

At a meeting scheduled before Tuesday night’s annual town meeting, the full board of selectmen failed to support what could have been chairman Tristan Israel’s final motion as a 24-year member of the board. Israel called for a special town meeting in May, but did not get a second from either selectman Melinda Loberg or selectman Jim Rogers. By not calling for a town meeting, Tisbury is endorsing the use of those E and D funds for design schematics for a new track.

Lingering in the air is the issue of grass versus synthetic turf fields, an issue that has divided the community in recent years. That controversy wasn’t lost on Loberg.

“Everyone on-Island will have another bite at the apple when this goes to the [Martha’s Vineyard Commission], which is the right place for this to be,” she said of the turf issue. “I feel uncomfortable putting on the brakes.”

Rogers said he would typically put the decision in the hands of voters, but echoed Loberg’s comment about the commission.

Schools Superintendent Matt D’Andrea apologized to the board for an April 4 letter that added to confusion surrounding the E and D funds. The regional school district recently learned through its attorney that it had to ask individual towns if they wanted to call a town meeting on how to spend the funds. “I apologize that came in a very confusing manner,” he said. “We’re learning.”

For a hastily called meeting at an odd time for the board, there were quite a few people on hand, including Rebekah Thomson of the Field Fund, which supports grass fields.

Ben Robinson, a member of the Tisbury planning board, said the board of selectmen taking no action on the funds would essentially be an endorsement of the entire track and field project.

If three towns don’t support use of the E and D funds, the regional school district will have to regroup.

Tisbury school committee member Janet Packer, before the vote, urged selectmen to let the project move forward. “Let’s let them do their job,” she said.

John Packer, a Tisbury resident, said the school committee voted to support the project, and the selectmen should respect that vote.

“That’s $2,500 out of our town checkbook for a town meeting,” he said, noting how much it would have cost for the single-issue meeting to be held sometime in May.

Israel disagreed, but couldn’t convince his colleagues.

He did have support in the audience. “I think we need to have due process,” Lillian Robinson said. “The town of Chilmark has called a special town meeting with a single article. Yes, it’s more time, but it’s also a legitimate part of the process.”