Don’t mix school project with funding formula

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To the Editor:

I am responding to the issue of the high school project, an all-Island facility that is critical to the education of our children and the culture and health of our Island community. I am a senior resident of Tisbury with no children or grandchildren in the system, and speaking as a resident of the Island, not of Tisbury.

We are fortunate to enjoy the distinctive characteristics and environment of six beautiful towns. Each adds a different experience, which makes living on the Island so much richer. The other side of our community individuality is the fact that we are one Island, and we share our roads, concerns for housing, climate change, density issues, and a host of others, which includes the high school.

The replacement of the high school was and is inevitable; we are all responsible as citizens of the Island to work collaboratively to get it replaced. Now the state appears prepared to participate in the funding of a huge project. We have experienced over the past six years the negative response of the state to the fact that all six towns are not prepared to proceed together. This is our opportunity to benefit from the tax contributions we all make to the state, build a high school we will be proud of, and guarantee a quality education for our kids. The stumbling block seems to be the high school budget formula.

To some degree, I understand the position Oak Bluffs is taking. I would, however, like to quote a statement made by the Oak Bluffs select board member Jason Balboni: “We’ve been talking about this funding formula for a long time; it really doesn’t seem to go anywhere.” Why has it taken so long, and why does it continue to be an issue? This should have been resolved years ago, tucked aside to enable us to look more clearly at critical projects, such as the high school.

It appears to me we are dealing with two issues: building a high school and developing a compatible budget formula. One should not overshadow the other, and should be handled independently. Though it is not the case, the image is that Oak Bluffs is holding the school project hostage because of an issue that should have been resolved long ago.

My intention is to stay on subject. I do want to respond to Oak Bluffs select board member Brian Parish, who provided an analogy of fairness to different prices per town for a Steamship ticket; however the missing element in his comparison is that if I bring myself and our six children on the boat, the total cost is substantially higher.

What point am I making? The individuality of our towns is valuable and respected, but this is not the time to take an independent stand. Collaboration is the word on not just this issue but many more to come. Please join as one to get our high school funding in place, and please sit down in a room together and not come out until the high school budget formula is resolved. We are Islanders. We can do it!

Elaine Miller
Vineyard Haven