Island towns already changed for Oak Bluffs


To the Editor:
The Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School assessment formula is in the news. As was reported in the Vineyard Gazette, “One Island town — Oak Bluffs — is strongly opposed to using the existing enrollment formula. The town leaders say Oak Bluffs should have lower assessments because it hosts the high school.” This quote is from this week’s Gazette, right? No, this is from a Vineyard Gazette article posted on March 8, 2007.
Over 12 years ago, Oak Bluffs voters at the urging of their town leaders refused to approve their high school budget assessment for fiscal year 2008, which used the agreed-upon formula of the high school regional agreement. Since unanimous approval of all towns is required to use the regional agreement formula that is based directly on student enrollment percentages of the towns, the budget assessments for FY2008 were recalculated using the state’s statutory formula, as Oak Bluffs desired, and subsequently approved by all Island towns. For every budget since, the high school committee has opted to continue to use the statutory formula to determine assessments, believing that Oak Bluffs would not acquiesce to a return to the regional agreement formula.
Since the change to the statutory formula, three Island towns have been assessed and paid a lesser amount than they otherwise would have under the regional agreement formula, and three towns have been assessed more:

  Increase (decrease) in MVRHS assessments due to use of statutory formula FY2008 – FY2020
Towns assessed less:  
Oak Bluffs ($1,890,472)
Aquinnah ($105,708)
Edgartown ($18,965)
Towns assessed more:  
West Tisbury $982,327 
Tisbury $851,115 
Chilmark $181,705 

So, 12 years ago Oak Bluffs won a change to the assessment formula they wanted that has saved that town’s taxpayers nearly $1.9 million to date, to the detriment of West Tisbury, Tisbury, and Chilmark taxpayers. It is true that the state statutory formula for calculating assessments does have several component steps that do result in capital costs and debt service being assessed as they would have been under the regional agreement formula, and as such, could be reviewed separately from the other components of the budget. However, it should be acknowledged that if there were no regional school district, each town, including Oak Bluffs, would have to pay the per-pupil cost of what it takes to educate their children in their town. Why, by joining a district, in hope of collectively reducing costs, should another Island town have to pay a higher per-pupil cost so that Oak Bluffs can pay a lower per-pupil cost? That makes no logical sense.
I see no reason why the other Island towns would ever acquiesce to these irrational demands again.

Bruce K. Stone



  1. Based on the letters, and reporting on this topic and as a taxpayer this is a pretty shocking wake up call. Thanks Bruce.
    How about instead of, or in addition to, a 736384 part series on climate change, the mvtimes were to commit an act of investigative journalism and layout how exactly this regional agreement is being manipulated, what other budget fun the school committee is hiding from us, and for that matter how our school buildings have come to be in the sorry, deferred maintenance state they are and under who’s responsibility.

  2. Bruce: To answer your last question: “Why, by joining a district, in hope of collectively reducing costs, should another Island town have to pay a higher per-pupil cost so that Oak Bluffs can pay a lower per-pupil cost?” please see my Letter to the Editor from October 6 I believe it was. There are very logical and compelling reasons why which are explained in that letter. Thank you.

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