Tisbury School project could cost taxpayers 10 percent more per year

The Tisbury School project will raise taxes by $635 per year on a residential property valued at $680,000.

The owner of residential property valued at $682,300 — Tisbury’s median — would pay an additional $635 in property taxes for the Tisbury School renovation and addition project, finance director Jon Snyder told The Times.

Voters at town meeting June 13 will be asked to borrow up to $55 million for the school project — $53 million for the construction, and the rest to pay for a portion of a temporary school to house students during the project. At the town election June 22, the Proposition 2½ debt exclusion will be on the town ballot, with no mention of the price tag. Voters will be asked a yes or no question to exempt the project from Proposition 2½.

Snyder said the town will seek a 30-year bond at 2.4 percent to pay for the school project, and that debt service will remain the same for the length of the borrowing. The overall project will add 93 cents to the town’s tax rate, or about a 10 percent increase, he said.

Three years ago, voters rejected a ballot question to build a new school for $46.6 million. The town would have received more than $14 million in state funds for that project under a Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) program. There are no state funds for the project going before voters in June.

A second ballot question will ask voters for $5 million to pave certain streets in town. Snyder said he hasn’t calculated the impact on taxpayers, but suggested it would be less than 15 cents on the tax rate.


Zoom sessions scheduled

The chair of the Tisbury School building committee, Harold Chapdelaine, and architect for the project Chris Blessen have scheduled a series of Zoom sessions to allow voters to learn firsthand what is being planned, and ask questions in real time about the renovation and addition of the school, according to a press release.

During the sessions, the school design decisions, budget, and community use will be discussed. A list of FAQs about the project has also been created. The tax implications are slightly different from what Snyder told The Times, because the median house value is rounded to $680,000.

If you have questions, contact tisburyschoolproject@gmail.com. To RSVP for the Zoom presentations, see bit.ly/TisSchoolZoom.


Thursday, May 6, 4-5 pm 

Wednesday, May 12, 4-5 pm 

Thursday, May 20, 4-5 pm 

Tuesday, May 25, 4:30-5:30 pm

Thursday, May 27, 4:30-5:30 pm

Thursday, June 3, 4:30-5:30 pm 

Thursday, June 10, 4:30-5:30 pm


  1. Is that $635 per year, for how many years? Is it for the 30 year bond? so $19,050 total?

  2. Municipal bond payments are front loaded and decline over time (unlike home mortgages) so $635 would be year one. Could be a 20 or 30 year note, I don’t know..

    • While that’s true of some municipal bonds in this case the debt service remains the same for the life of the 30-year bond, according to Snyder.

  3. If people are concerned about the likely cost of this project, it is important to know the date of the $55MM estimate. In recent months steel is up close to 20% and plywood et al. much more. If the estimate is more than 2 mths old, it is probably off by at least 10%. The same argument applies to the funding rate – including points, fees etc. Details are important.

    For the non-resident, non-voting population, it would be a nice courtesy to see the cash impact given the impact of the residential exemption and the resulting non-resident penalty. Averages are very deceptive.

  4. If people would really ”think out of the box” you wouldnt need a new school and wouldnt need to spend 55 million. Using existing schools and buildings and shifting school times and days of the week and even summer usage one could solve this problem without the cost. The reason this money is being spent is because it can be spent and simply shifted to the taxpayers. Cost centers like town government function differently than profit centers. They get whatever they want.

    • Genius, Tisbury will enter into an agreement with (pick your town) to use their school from 3 pm until 10 pm. We feed the kids dinner instead of lunch and we bus them all home at 10 pm, even the kindergarten kids. It is perfect solution because we can get teachers only from Tisbury so their kids will be on the same schedule or only people with no children. We couldn’t have anyone from (pick your town) teaching that has children otherwise they will never see their kids. Bus drivers can make more money since they will be considered second shift, same for the “dinner” staff. The teachers will likely want to renegotiate their contracts too since they won’t see much of their families anymore working second shift. Families will love this. I could work from 6am to 230pm then put my kid on the bus, have a quiet dinner with my wife and do homework with my tired kids from 1020pm until 1130pm. I love this, it would be easy to pull off! Sounds like Utopia. We learned that it is no problem for families to have their kids home all day during the pandemic when the schools were closed and it was a 2 working parent household. You just leave them home alone.

      I guess Tisbury would be able to somehow forget that the building needs lead paint removal, has failing windows, aging HVAC and a leaky roof and just make it a town hall without spending a penny. Probably would need to solve some accessibility issues, but that is minor.

    • Andrew– I really have to give you credit for this one .
      I wonder why nobody else ever thought of this ?

  5. Let’s clarify on this and not fall for that $635 a year number as though that was it. It’s $635 a year on a property that is assessed at $680,000. So, for many of us, it’s a lot more than $635 a year, particularly with new assessments we just received. My tax bill for the Town of Tisbury is already through the roof for an average property. Taxes are financially burdensome in this town, before this.

    Also, is this $635 a year based on the tax bills of those town residents who already get a reduced tax rate each year? Or is it $635 a year based on a $680,000 house assessment for those who aren’t lucky enough to get that inequitable tax break? The real costs for many is far more than $635 a year.

    • Should kindergarten kids be on the 4 to 10 shift Sunday Monday and Tuesday Wednesday And Thursday?

  6. This renovation and all public building projects are subject to the ridiculous prevailing wage laws. For instance backhoe operators are paid $79.18 per hour, bulldozer operators $78.65 per hour, carpenters $80.73 per hour and on and on. No island company can qualify for this work so few islanders will be employed at these rates. I think there are plenty of skilled islanders willing to work for perhaps $45-$50 an hour. Perhaps our focus should be with our legislative delegation to eliminate “prevailing” wages and bring good paying jobs to islanders while significantly reducing the tax burden of these projects.

    • The prevailing rate for boatyard worker is $120.
      Off Island contractors will be looking for on Island labor.
      They know the cost of putting people up on the Island/transportation costs. .
      As it is, a significant portion of the construction labor on Island lives off Island.

  7. Mr Stephens, your exaggeration and facetiousness is puerile. No one has said anything about keeping kids up until 10pm or 11.30. Using empty buildings and other schools and shifting schedules is done all the time. You dont think we could have a shift of 7 to noon and then 1 to 6 in the High School? Do you not think Tisbury could have depreciated its building over the last 20 years and made provision for re building and maintenance so they wouldnt be in this mess? The managment of the school finances is miserable and now they are dumping it on the homeowners many of who can barely afford to live here. Proper utilization of MV buildings, other schools, and portable units is the way to go especially for an elementary school.

    • Thanks for noticing my sarcasm. Do you by any chance know the hours the High School kids utilize their building? Do you know why High schoolers don’t start earlier? We know enough about sleep patterns of adolescents to know a shift to earlier does not work. Where are all the empty buildings on the island that could be utilized for a school? Or part of a school. How do you run a school that is all split up and provide food service to those children. How do you provide ELL and special ed if your resources are all spread out. Schools are holistic entities that need all the parts together to work. I am all for thinking out of the box, but a price tag that you don’t like does not mean we need to break everything. The good folks in 1929 that paid for the current school took the pain and there were a lot less of them.

      • Mr Stephens you can agonize about the sleep patterns of students but much of the world is doing with a lot less and their kids do better than ours. I don’t know much about “”holistic”” education and I took my lunch to school in a brown bag. Private schools do with a lot less and don’t charge as much— most of them. Go ahead pay the 55 million and measure the return on investment. You will find we are spending more and our kids are worse off. Churches are empty buildings 6 days a week for a start.

        • Non-religious private schools do not allow brown baggers.
          In the US public K-12 schools spend $612.7 billion, or $12,612 per pupil, annually.
          The average cost of a US private high school is $14,978.
          Falmouth Academy, which is a relatively new and a best mediocre charges $32,355.
          Bishop Stang High School in New Bedford charges $11,400, transportation, where available, is an extra $1,400 to $2,100.
          Stang is heavily subsidized by the Catholic Church.
          Stang is in the second quintile, from the bottom, for private high Schools.
          Where did you get ‘don’t charge as much’

          Which churches on the Island would suitable for classrooms, six days a week.

          • Mr Hess we are talking aobut an elementary school not a high school. You fail to distinguish between sticker price and net price. So what if some schools are subsidized by the Catholic Church? Every church on MV could take at least two classes and each teacher goes where the students are. The High school here could be reimagined(is that the new word). I am glad you brought up the 12600 per pupil in public school and we get very little. Even you Mr Hess would admit the public school system in the US is failing. Lets pretend Covid is here for good and keep zooming the kids so no need for the 55 million.

    • Breaking news!
      A baby boom started in 1946.
      Also on Martha’s Vineyard.
      In 1956 there wasn’t enough classroom space in the Tisbury school for the incoming fifth-grade horde (which included students from Up-Island schools).
      So double sessions were instituted: morning and afternoon.
      In the middle of the year the two groups switched.
      It worked out fine. Pupils have fond memories of those years.
      Who can forget Mrs. Carpenter? Mrs. Phillips? Miss Cadogan??
      Not to mention desk mates.
      Pupils who attended double sessions went on to graduate from high school and live completely normal lives!

      • Dear Ms. Scott,
        Thanks for pointing out what I assume was a short term solution. How long did that continue…..20 years, 30 years? The world has changed, education has changed, mechanical systems efficiency has changed. Special Ed has changed since the 50s, I am guessing that you can’t remember more than a handful of English language learners or perhaps any in the Tisbury School in the 50s. Laws have changed requiring schools to provide services not provided in the 50s. There were not many 2 parent working families in the 50s. Mostly a mom was home to make lunch and get you back and forth. We don’t use lead paint in our homes anymore or asbestos. Why is it so hard to understand that world around us has changed and maybe, just maybe education and the space to do it has changed. Not everyone sits in neat little rows staring dutifully at a blackboard with a desk mate. Fond memories for sure. We are voting on this project now just as we did in 2018. The lead paint is not magically removing itself. The mechanicals are not dialing back their age. We are not stopping special education or ELL teaching. The town has now paid twice to run this process using taxpayer funds. What does everyone think this will look like from a cost perspective in 5 or 10 years if you vote no? Or more practically speaking, when post covid inflation hits? We have to pay for this stimulus money at some point. As one of the previous 14 signatories from April 18, 2018 that helped sway voters and cost the town ~14M in state support, how have you helped solve the building challenges in the subsequent 3 years? As far as I can tell only 2 of those 14 have stepped up and made an actual positive contribution directly to the current project. Bravo to those 2! Any of the other 12 going to step up on the town meeting floor and show us a fully vetted proposal developed under the rules municipalities are required by law to follow?

        • “Mostly a mom was home to make lunch and get you back and forth. ”
          Ha ha!
          No, we walked or rode our bikes to school. I don’t recall any moms dropping off or picking up kids.
          The Tisbury School was sited to be not more than 2 miles from the homes of the farthest away, namely, in West Chop. There is a large fold-out map showing this in the School Report portion of I think the 1927 or 28 Annual Town Report.

          Psst! My post was a response to the idea of a more flexible attitude toward the use of our facilities, as suggested by Andrew Engelman, not to your post. You seem to have missed the point.

          • PS. Families had one car in those days.
            And the family’s one vehicle didn’t stay home with Mom.
            PPS. My recollection is we had a hot lunch in the school cafeteria but that might have been in junior high years.

        • Yes Mr Stephens education of our children has changed and by any reasonable metric it has gotten worse and if you need sources for that you will have to get them yourself–it is self evident and all the surveys show it. We shouldnt pay 55mm unless we get a return on our money and the teachers union has failed miserably. More and more across the country people are going to private schools and home schooling–the paradigm is shifting and people are fed up with teachers insisting that a 6 year old needs to wear a mask for 7 hours a day in order to not contaminate someone. Go to Biden who is passing out 4 trillion and get the 55 million, its just numbers in books. When this was voted down the Superintendant should have gone to the Governor and pleaded for the financial assistance to be grandfathered but we saw none of that. It aint the
          minority voters who are to blame but the malpractice of the town elders and the school officials.

  8. Andy, when will you stand for School Committee. You obliviously know how to manage education.

    Portable units? Do you have portable units at your place? Are they esthetically pleasing? Do they have a lower life cycle costs, are they efficient to heat and cool?

    The people who build portable classrooms are also the same people who build trailer park trash.

    • Andy lives in Florida. He has bragged about it on these pages. His idea of “here” is as skewed as his thoughts on covid safety.

        • Weird. This newspaper says you sold your house 3 years ago. Tell me you shlep back up here to rent for a few weeks or months and maybe someone will believe you. It could happen. But be clear, you’re free to travel and visit places, but if you vote, pay taxes, and live more than 6 months in Florida, it’s not considered part time.

          Also, what freedom has “our government” deprived you of this last year? Third time I am asking, after you made this untrue claim several times in a different thread.

          Just curious, do you believe something bad will happen if you manage to tell the truth?

          • Ms Diez I did sell my house in VH three years ago and I live in florida for 7 months. Are you aware that one can purchase a house on MV anonymously with a Trust? You are in no position to tell me what my residency rights are in Florida– I know them well. As for freedoms, the entire Covid folly has locked down the country at great cost to the government and student learning and health and all manner of pathology when a sliver of the population is in any danger. Yes you can recite 560k people but no-one measures who died due to covid and who died with covid and who was going to die anyway. You may not agree with my claims but they are true nevertheless. Misinformation has been foisted upon us for 14 months and continues. Your attack on me is tiresome. Please attack the claims if you wish but millions of people in this country agree with me on Covid and they aint all Trumpers.

          • Engelman, the “covid folly” continues much longer and more deadly than it would have been because of the millions of Americans who disregard their human responsibility to do their part: wear a mask, social distance, not gather, wash hands, and get a vaccine. If all Americans had listened to the sound medical advice from experts like Fauci (who you’ve lied about) we’d not have had the uncontrolled spread and high death rate. But you’re right in that not all the selfish and illogical people who are current “vaccine hesitant” were Trumpers— some are simple-minded conspiracy theorists who don’t vote, etc.— but you can be sure that we will never reach herd immunity because millions of Americans are too selfish and too stupid to care about the health and safety of others. Our economy would have already been so much better if everyone quit the whining about their rights and wore a mask and stopped gathering… a year ago! Stupidity and selfishness helped covid do its thing— along with zero national leadership until Biden’s presidency.
            As an aside, you do know, I hope, that a person who regularly and intentionally misleads, exaggerates, plagiarizes, reneges on bets, and outright lies, will not ever be believed or respected, even when he manages to utter something sort of true. You’ve made your place on these pages by your own conduct here. You are entitled to your opinions, but you have no standing at all when it comes to what is true.

  9. Mr Hess do you think spending 55 million is ”managing education”? Public School education has been mismanaged for ages hence our declining performance. The subject is a building let alone what is taught inside. I dont care about aesthetically pleasing, I care about can Johnny read and write and building a new elementary school in a declining demographic is burdening the people who can least pay. my name is not Andy—Al.

    • Please clarify declining demographic. Be specific of your source for such a statement.

    • Andy–you may not care what things look like here, because you don’t live here. Perhaps you don’t care about what anything looks like, except of course the wives or husbands of politicians or liberal philanthropist that you don’t like.
      Curious though, you have in the past ranted about people putting stuff on the side of the road with a “free” sign on it. It’s ugly, you have said–it makes the island look like a dump, you have said– In reality, it is giving stuff away– call it charity if you will. Why do you hate the idea of charity? I was raised catholic– As a child I was told charity was one of the cornerstones of christianity. Now, after years of rants about how the island is being trashed by people giving stuff away . you don’t care about esthetics. Interesting.

  10. I love in Edgartown. I would be open to an island wide tax on regional endeavours. My son is now 25 but families can all send their children to any school they choose. I do feel the primary town should carry the primary burden but other towns could assist. We all share the island. I feel that schools police and fire buildings common parks that need major repairs should be shared thru the entire community.

    • Ooooo, I believe Mr. Bergeron is on the verge of saying the dreaded word “regionalization.” In Nantucket they can do that; the island is one town, one county, so stuff in Siasconset gets paid for equally by folks in Madaket. Here we are fortunate, or otherwise, to have six towns, and though regionalized plans could be facilitated through the County, in my 50+ years here I’ve seldom seen the towns agree on much. I’m made to understand that there are still family members who won’t speak to each other over building the Regional High School. I agree with you, Mr. Bergeron, but I fear you’ll be overrun.

  11. How disappointing to see some of these comments. I was glad when the Times cut off comments for a while because there were some people needlessly making catty, mean spirited comments in the previous comment incarnation. The comment section should be a place where someone can say something regarding their concern, ideas, or questions about something in an article without receiving snide or sarcastic responses from a couple of people. In my case, my focus was to try to find out what the real cost was, and if that estimated $635 a year was based on the cost to those getting the large discount rate on their tax bill. I never commented about the project, itself, or it’s need. I attended that school as a child. I believe the school needs major work. That was not the focus of my comment or my questions about the costs. The person who hit me with a snippy response had no clue how I felt about the need for improvement at the school. I don’t appreciate that needless sarcasm in response to my valid concern about something that is going to cost me a lot of money. But, I see he has been backbiting the comments of many people, not just me. In the previous incarnation of the comment section people did not have to use their full names. Now they do. I had truly hoped that this requirement would tone down the sarcasm and nastiness of some people who feel the need to troll the comment section to backbite and belittle the comments of others. Apparently not.

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