Edgartown selectman Arthur Smadbeck criticized Oak Bluffs’ refusal to fund its share of a feasibility study for a new high school.
After reading Superintendent Matt D’Andrea’s Op-Ed about the status of the Island’s schools, Smadbeck said he felt the need to address regional efforts.
The high school asked each Island town for funds to conduct a feasibility study to begin the process of building a new high school. Each town was asked for shares based on the high school’s regional funding formula. Edgartown voters approved its share of $286,145. Oak Bluffs denied the town’s $292,723 share.
“Five of the six towns voted for this, and I would like to urge the sixth town who has not voted for this to get on board with the rest of the Island,” Smadbeck said.
The regional funding formula stretches back to 1956, and splits costs into capital and operating costs. Towns fund the high school’s budget based on respective enrollments from the preceding year.
“This sudden desire to change the formula to benefit one or two towns is hurting our high school,” Smadbeck said. “It’s hurting all regional services, really, because it’s demonstrated to the Island that agreements are not to be followed.”
Smadbeck listed several of Oak Bluffs’ tax-exempt organizations, such as the YMCA, Martha’s Vineyard Community Services, and the high school, but said Oak Bluffs was far from the only town that has regional services. Edgartown has Norton Point Beach, the County of Dukes County courthouse, and the Boys and Girls Club.
“We all have regional things in our town, but we support the whole Island. We’re not looking to get paid by the other towns — we’re happy to provide it,” Smadbeck said.
He also mentioned the town’s wastewater facility, which has a septage intake process that services the entire Island.
“It’s time that we stop whining about, Well, I’ve got this, you’ve got that, and you don’t have this, and I’m doing that, and start to live up to our agreements,” Smadbeck said, adding that the high school funding formula was the most successful regional agreement the Island has. “Our taxpayers are also burdened … I hope that going forward, all six towns on this Island will support our high school.”
Selectmen Margaret Serpa and Mike Donaroma both agreed with Smadbeck. “It’s worked. The formula has worked for many, many years, and that’s the formula that we should continue to use,” Serpa said.
Oak Bluffs officials have been vocal about their opposition to regional funding formulas. At the Oak Bluffs annual town meeting in April, town administrator Robert Whritenour said the town falls victim to Proposition 2½ overrides, flawed state revenue-sharing formulas, and a volatile regional education formula, while depending too heavily on property tax revenue, putting a burden on taxpayers.
Speaking to The Times on Tuesday, in response to Smadbeck’s comments, Oak Bluffs selectmen chair Brian Packish said Oak Bluffs taxpayers have been footing the bill for other towns for decades, and that the funding formulas do not work for the town anymore.
“Edgartown has demonstrated it’s part of the Island when it’s convenient for them financially,” he said. “If Mr. Smadbeck wants Oak Bluffs to come on board, then Edgartown should come on board, and it should participate in funding our Island equally … Mr. Smadbeck has demonstrated he has no desire or willingness to have that discussion.”
Packish added that attempts to discuss funding formulas have been stonewalled by Edgartown.
In other business, selectmen appointed Mark Snider as its representative to the Vineyard Transit Authority (VTA) advisory board, after the sudden resignation of Louis Paciello last month.
“Mark Snider’s been extremely knowledgeable on transportation and extremely helpful to the town,” Smadbeck said. Snider was not present at the meeting.
Selectmen also appointed Sarah Nevin as the disabled community representative for the advisory board. The appointment is good for one year, and is chosen by towns on a rotating basis. Smadbeck told Nevin, who attended the meeting, to be focused on the VTA’s service to the disabled community.
“I’m eager to serve,” Nevin said. “My commitment has been initiated by the strike and my own dependence on the bus, because I’m handicapped and unable to drive.”