Irked by O.B., Edgartown takes charge

Unable to agree on funding formula, selectmen seek short-term repairs on high school.

Edgartown animal control officer Catherine "Betsy" Buck at Monday's dangerous dog hearing in Edgartown. - Brian Dowd

After walking out of an all-Island finance committee meeting last week, Edgartown is now focusing on short-term solutions to maintain and repair the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School with or without help from Oak Bluffs.

In a letter that will be sent to Superintendent Matt D’Andrea, high school Principal Sara Dingledy, facilities director Mike Taus, Edgartown building inspector Lenny Jason, the Edgartown school committee, Aquinnah selectmen, and Chilmark selectmen, Edgartown selectmen said repairs have been put off for too long.

“Since Oak Bluffs has announced that they will not back any capital expenditure without the proposed formula change, which is highly unlikely, it is time to focus attention on the deferred maintenance and repair that has been put off for too long,” the letter reads. “We would like to invite you … to meet with the board of selectmen to discuss the scope of work needed to make the current building safe and usable.”

Selectmen said the proposed formula would change the per-pupil formula, which is used by 92 percent of the K-12 school districts in Massachusetts, to one where Oak Bluffs, Tisbury, and West Tisbury, with a total of 68 percent of the high school students, would pay 40 percent of the cost. Edgartown, Chilmark, and Aquinnah, which have 32 percent of the enrollment, would pay 60 percent of the high school costs. Change in the funding formula requires a unanimous vote from all six Island towns.

Town administrator James Hagerty said the formula would be unsustainable for the town if changed.

Oak Bluffs’ proposal is to change the high school funding formula based on enrollment to one based on sole equalized valuation. Equalized valuation is the percentage breakdown of property values of the Island. Edgartown is 39 percent of that valuation, Chilmark is 15 percent, Oak Bluffs is 14 percent. Currently, the enrollment formula has each town paying roughly $30,000 per student — the third highest per pupil amount in the state — to fund the high school’s $19.5 million budget.

According to Hagerty, with an equalized valuation formula, the per-student costs would significantly rise for Chilmark ($99,454), Aquinnah ($58,219), and Edgartown ($44,044) while the per-student costs would decrease for Oak Bluffs ($15,000), Tisbury ($14,160), and West Tisbury ($27,984).

Hagerty said Edgartown’s finance committee members walked out of the meeting because Oak Bluffs’ offer of a formula based on property values was unrealistic and would add “exorbitant costs” to the town’s tax rolls.

At the all-Island finance committee meeting, members decided to pursue an outside consultant to help mediate the process of establishing a funding formula for high school capital costs, but Edgartown feels another consultant isn’t needed.

“Where we’re at right now, we’re going to pay a consultant to consult us on how to pay for another consultant to conduct building feasibility consultations,” Hagerty said.

At their annual town meeting in April, Oak Bluffs voters denied funding their share of a feasibility study for a new high school.

At their last meeting, Edgartown selectmen voiced their frustration with Oak Bluffs, and said the current funding formula for the high school has worked for many years.

Selectmen set a date to meet with town and school officials on Oct. 7 at 4 pm in the Edgartown Town Hall meeting room.

“We’re concerned about the high school. We’re concerned about the safety and the usability of the high school,” selectman Arthur Smadbeck said.


Selectmen unleash against dog owner

Selectmen ordered Jacqueline Callari-Robinson of Edgartown and Vineyard Haven to keep her miniature dachshund leashed and fenced in at all times when outside after the dog bit another woman.

At a dangerous dog hearing Monday, Catherine “Betsy” Buck, the town’s animal control officer, detailed the July 16 incident. Maria Lopez was walking her dog, Sami, near Marchant Path while Callari-Robinson was bringing groceries in from her car. Callari-Robinson’s three dogs escaped her house. One of the dogs, named Malcolm X, bit Lopez on the ankle and then attacked Sami, according to Buck’s report.

Lopez told selectmen Callari-Robinson did not restrain her dogs, and told Lopez to “walk off.” After repeated requests to restrain her dog, Callari-Robinson did. Lopez said the dog bite was so bad she missed work, couldn’t ride her horse, and now has a scar.

Callari-Robinson told selectmen she had been displaced from her home in Vineyard Haven after a fire and was bringing groceries inside her home when her dogs escaped. After realizing her dogs had ran outside, Callari-Robinson said she ran after them, grabbed her dogs, and brought them back to her home. She said she had no interaction with Lopez before running outside to restrain her dogs. “My dogs came out. [Malcolm X] did bite her, it was awful. I feel terrible, but it was an accident,” Callari-Robinson said.

Buck told selectmen the bite from Malcolm X did fit the definition of a dangerous dog. “It inflicted trauma to Ms. Lopez, unprovoked,” Buck said. She also suggested Callari-Robinson hire a dog trainer to train her dog.

“I’m not a dog psychiatrist,” Smadbeck said. “But what I can tell you is, the law in Edgartown is that dogs must be leashed.”

Selectman Mike Donaroma also gave Callari-Robinson a warning. “The dog owner should understand if this happens again, and you come in front of this board, we won’t be so lenient,” he said.


  1. Another funny article. So Edgartown is going to fund repairs all by themselves because they are more concerned about the building than other towns but staged a walkout at a discussion on how to get it done because they don’t like the question being asked. No discussion no negotiation. Did those members just spontaneously look at each other and get up and leave or was it premeditated and discussed in violation of open meeting laws. Looks like we are going to read about the towns on the offensive side of this ball for a while. Maybe you will really want to talk when your MSBA money goes up in smoke like it did in Tisbury. Oh My. Why not a split formula. One aspect for operating costs based on the number of kids a town sends and a different formula for capital expenses since the school is an asset to each town equally. Keep scaring people with all those numbers but this concept is really quite simple!

    • HUH! Why didn’t someone clue me in about the open meeting laws? In Edgartown? Find out the statute of limitations on this one for me. I remember when…

  2. What my house is assessed at doesnt matter. Im not selling it. The current funding formula using enrollment is best. On my income I dont need an increase in property taxes.

  3. Typical irresponsible dog owner. Typical lame excuse about being ‘displaced’ by a fire. That has NOTHING to do with the fact that the dog bites, it will bite again, and the owner obviously does not care. Telling someone to ‘walk off’ as your dog bites? I’d tell you to ‘*** off but it wont be acceptable content here. Next time euthanize the vicious animal.

  4. Hhhhmmm….Why do I get the feeling has this been a pit bull they wouldn’t have been so “ lenient” to begin with?
    If that dog has bitten people before I don’t care what type of dog it is, something needs to be done. I’m not trying to cause conflict, I just feel that they are far less tolerant of other breeds that’s all.

  5. Dogs escape and get out. It happens. Dogs that escape and bite need to be euthanized. I don’t understand why the dog is getting a 3rd chance to bite.

  6. The Edgartown board of selectman should show Oak Bluffs and Tisbury what spending fairness is all about. The Edgartown taxpayers paid for the construction, operation and upgrades at our wastewater plant. There is a shared cost among all taxpayers and users hooked up to the system. Those not hooked up to the system pay a per-gallon fee to dispose of pumped concentrated septage. The other towns that use our plant to dump their concentrated septage pay the same per-gallon rate as Edgartown taxpayers. They are getting a FREE RIDE at the expense of Edgartown taxpayers. I respectfully submit to the Edgartown board of selectmen that these other towns immediately share in the fixed operation costs of our plant, and use a formula that counts the number of dwellings in each town as part of that base, along with a per-gallon fee that is 10 times what Edgartown taxpayers are charged for pumpouts. Fair is fair. Or is that only when you want to change a formula to benefit OB and Tisbury. Not unlike Tisbury giving property tax discounts to the year rounders and sticking it to the part-time residents who subsidize the rest of them.

    • This is good thinking. If Edgartown wants charge a higher rate for non town’s folk septage that is well within their right as the builders, owners and operators of a facility that others wish to use. i guess I will pay more next time i need a pump out. I accept that. I will pay for my actual usage of a system Edgartown built all on their own. Maybe Tisbury and Oak Bluffs should put up toll booths for other towns to get to the Boat. Only fair if you are using roads that those two towns maintain but you did not pay to build……Doesn’t that sound ridiculous? Be nice to each other please. Get to the table and get something done before the MSBA says no when they read all this. Then we can all let another school use our sales and MA income tax money for their benefit and not see it come back to us.

      • Edgartown taxpayers paid for the plant. You’re suggestion of a toll booth would be comical..if it wasn’t already in place! You forgot to mention the $$$$$$$$ OB an VH get as port fees. Convenient amnesia? And the taxpayers in those towns did not build the ramps, the SSA did. I drive a STATE road to OB and VH, which is not paid for , maintained or plowed by the town.

  7. Read this again: “focus attention on the deferred maintenance and repair that has been put off for too long”
    Where can we see a list of deferred maintenance on any of the public buildings – especially the high school and Tisbury school?
    Would there still be a need for a $42 million new elementary school or an up and coming $100+ million dollar high school if these buildings were maintained as they are intended?

    • I remember the addition on the old edg elementary school that was built in the 1980’s. One of the geniuses on the school committee or whomever approved this waste was a builder. He convinced them to build it like one of his cheap spec houses…on a crawl space… and i recall, it rotted and was eventually torn down. BIG waste of taxpayers dollars… again.

  8. Does anyone else think $30,000 per student is outrageous? That’s private college tuition money. These kids live and eat (except lunch) at home. And still after spending $30,000 per student, 3rd highest in the state, we can’t figure afford to maintain the facility? This makes zero sense, something is very wrong. Next does anyone think asking Chilmark to pay $99.5K per student while Oak Bluffs pays $15K is in anyway fair? That’s a 600%+ difference between the two towns. These numbers are nuts, we’re not funding a research university, it’s a public high school. We need to start examining the root cause of the problem, our costs are way to high, we’re at least 3 standard deviations above the norm for the state. We are the problem, if we accept this going forward.

    • $30K per student is roughly $10K per student per year more than Nantucket spends. The really scary part is when you compare the test scores against the other schools in the state (we’re pretty low). No maintenance, mediocre performance, highest cost. Something is wrong.

  9. If a dog ran out of its house and bit me, and its owner got off with a warning and a suggestion about maybe hiring a trainer, I’d be apoplectic. That is ridiculous. Also, anyone who would name their dog Malcolm X should probably be on a watch list.

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