To the Editor:
In answering the question posed by Vicki Divoll of the Chilmark Finance Committee as to “what is unfair and improper about the [present] funding formula” (MV Times, Sept. 19), one must first consider why there are so many students living in the down-Island towns and so few in Chilmark.
Chilmark enacted three-acre zoning to keep that town rural. A rural character is charming, but what has been the effect of that zoning decision? For one, Chilmark has few infrastructure costs — police, fire, road maintenance, etc. For another, young families cannot afford to live in Chilmark, so they have had to settle in Oak Bluffs, Tisbury, and Edgartown. The workers who maintain the homes in Chilmark live in the down-Island, affordable towns. That’s not a big issue for Edgartown, because that town derives millions in revenue due to its large size and many expensive homes.
But for O.B. and Tisbury, it’s a different story. Our budgets are always stretched to the limit to pay for infrastructure and school costs. The present high school funding formula was enacted a long time ago, when the whole Island was rural, and the populations vastly lower. The owners of a house worth $500,000 in O.B. or Tisbury should not be paying the same or more in school taxes as those whose house is valued at $2.5 million. Does Chilmark not bear any responsibility for paying for those students and workers who might have settled in that town if it had welcomed them?
The budget of the Martha’s Vineyard Commission is set up for each town’s share to be based on equalized valuation. Why? In essence, I believe it’s because the MVC works for the benefit of all the towns and all the citizens of the Island as one united entity (just as the high school is supposed to be for the benefit of all Island children, no matter their town of residence).
If you want to continue with the status quo, the educational experience for the children of Oak Bluffs and Tisbury will steadily decline. But if you recognize that all the children living on Martha’s Vineyard are part of one community, and that the high school includes many activities that all Islanders share in, then you will understand that the burden of paying for our shared school must be divided up differently if we are going to manage successfully into the future.
P.S. Jim Malkin mentioned that “other towns harbor nonprofits that own real estate” (and therefore don’t pay property taxes). Oh yes, there’s the Howes House in Chilmark. I guess that is supposed to balance out the Y, the high school, the hospital, Community Services, etc., in O.B.