OPEB trips up MVRHS budget vote

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Martha's Vineyard Regional High School in Oak Bluffs. — MV Times

The Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School has yet to approve its FY23 budget assessment of $20.9 million after a vote by the school committee was tripped up by the long-term question of other post-employment benefit (OPEB) contributions.

Several years ago, the high school made an agreement to establish a goal of increasing the annual contribution to OPEB by $250,000 each year for five years, or until the actuarially determined employer contribution amount (the amount the actuary recommends the school contribute annually) is reached.

With a total increase of 4.65 percent in assessments proposed in the latest version of the budget (Version 5), several committee members were concerned about upping the OPEB contributions due to funding constraints.

Committee member Skipper Manter was the first to bring up the question of OPEB liability at the meeting. In this version of the budget, the OPEB contribution line is level funded, although it’s still up for debate whether to increase it.

Martha’s Vineyard schools business administrator Mark Friedman said this is a conversation that must be approached carefully year to year, depending on budget requirements.

“The increases may become altogether too difficult to absorb, or maybe it’s a good year to increase,” Friedman said. “That is something for the committee to decide.”

As of now, approximately $1.6 million is going toward OPEB in the FY23 budget.

Manter vehemently opposed moving the budget forward without increasing the OPEB line. “The hole is getting bigger and bigger — we started at $30 million [in OPEB liability] and now it’s at $50 million. We are going to be in a fiscal collapse sometime. We should address this like we said we were going to,” Manter said.

Committee member Kelly McCracken suggested bringing in the high school’s actuary to discuss OPEB in more depth, and help the group come up with a comprehensive OPEB policy. “This is not a mandate, we do not have a schedule, but I think right now we need a better understanding of OPEB so when we are talking about this it doesn’t get contentious,” McCracken said.

The vote to approve the budget failed, 5-4, with a two-thirds majority required to pass.

The committee will again discuss the budget at its next meeting on Jan. 3.

Monday’s school committee meeting began with chair Amy Houghton asking for a moment of silence in remembrance and celebration of longtime French teacher at the high school Pierre Bonneau, who recently died.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Wow let’s stick are head in the sand like the rest of the country and not worry about future money issues. This school budget is all ready out of control and OPED needs to be increased and more than what was agreed to. Find something else to cut or jobs to be eliminated to reduce other expenses. What does this teach are children if we can not be responsible as adults in planning for the future. This Island sees no end to spending and can not stop themselves from wanting more.

  2. What we are children is that we are just to Damn cheap to reasonably fund education.
    The Island has some of the lowest real estate taxes in the State.
    Chilmark is the next to the lowest.
    The lowest is in The County of Dukes County..
    I am guessing that you have a pretty good handle on Island’s real estate tax rate.

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