Chilmark proposes remodeled high school formula

Down-Island towns 25 percent each, Up-Island towns 25 percent total.

Jim Malkin proposed the novel funding formula.

The Chilmark select board voted unanimously Thursday night to endorse a novel formula for funding a remodeling or rebuild of Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School.

The proposed formula calls for Edgartown, Oak Bluffs, and Tisbury to each pay 25 percent of the costs and for Aquinnah, Chilmark, and West Tisbury to collectively pay the remaining 25 percent. The proposal was made by select board chair Jim Malkin as a topic not reasonably anticipated by the chair.

Malkin said that the lack of anticipation stemmed from the announcement just made Wednesday that the Massachusetts School Building Authority’s (MSBA) will recommend funding a Vineyard high school project.

Malkin told the board all other funding formulas he’d mulled over didn’t measure up, especially equalized valuation.

“I am not in favor of the equalized valuation whatsoever,” Malkin said. “I don’t think that would have any support with our voters or with the Edgartown voters, based on what I’ve heard. And I think this might be a way to move forward.”

Malkin stressed the 75 percent down-Island, 25 percent up-Island formula was only for rebuilding the high school, not for the annual operation of the high school or associated costs.

He said he arrived at the percentages after contemplating the 2020 census, which he said revealed about 5,000 people–plus in each of the down-Island towns and a bit more than 5,000–plus combined population in the up-Island towns.

He described the 75 percent down-Island, 25 percent up-Island formula as “a very simple metric,” and said the board could send it to the school administration to cost out.

Malkin said he hoped the formula would “break the logjam” through an idea that “should be palatable to all the towns.”

Select board member Warren Doty called it a “good proposal.”

“I think someone needs to start to make some movement on the logjam, and I think that’s a very well-thought-out proposal — first I’m hearing it,” select board member Bill Rossi said.

Rossi added that hopefully it will get Oak Bluffs “on board.”

Oak Bluffs has at times been a poison pill in moving forward with a high school remodeling project because the town doesn’t find the present school funding formula equitable. 

Healthy Aging M.V. CEO Paddy Moore, who happened to be on the Zoom, said, “I just wanted to say it sounded superb, the breaking of the logjam is just something that there are so many people on this Island wishing for, and without the information to make it possible. So congratulations to all of you. Thanks a lot.” 


  1. What logjam? the current system is fair and just because OB keeps saying it is not does not mean it is not. Where are the number details to understand what just got ambushed to the other board members. This should not even of been discussed with out being on the agenda and a heads up to everyone. This is how we do things now? There was no reason to bring this up now it was a planned calculated maneuver. One that could of waited and proceeded on normal business schedule. Something seems fishy here

  2. it would have been interesting if the reporter could include in the article what percentage each town is currently paying so we could see how much of a change this formula represents. That said hats off to Chilmark for agreeing with Oak Bluffs and conceding that the current formula is unsustainable.

  3. It is a “logjam” because it only takes one town — any town — to stop the feasibility study to assess and plan rebuilding the high school. It only takes one town to cause us to lose up to $40 million of state funding for a new or rebuilt high school, which may cost $100 million total.

    We have to reach 100% agreement among the towns by September 1 or we lose that state money!!!

    We have been discussing this formula for years and have had no proposals on the table that could get us to a six-town consensus. This proposal by Jim, unanimously endorsed by the Chilmark Select Board, and forwarded to the other five boards for action, sets in motion the process of reaching that consensus. Quite frankly, it is pure genius!!!

  4. The current regional funding formula IS NOT fair as per Bob Murphy’s opinion and the Fincoms of OB, VH and WT would likely agree.
    Basing the formula on number of kids is unfair. Basing the formula on the value of property is unfair. Basing the formula on median income is unfair.
    What is fair (in my humble opinion) is that each town pays 1/6 of costs associated with MVRHS.
    If Edgartown and Aquinnah and Chilmark want to cry “unfair” because they only have 5 kids in the school or because of a generally smaller population or because they are cheap then maybe it’s time they changed their zoning laws to allow more residents access to their currently unaffordable land thereby attracting a larger tax base thereby reducing each homeowners potential financial responsibility to MVRHS.
    I have very little sympathy for residents of this island crying “unfair” that live in towns with some of the lowest taxes, largest houses with highest value and highest incomes. Oak Bluffs provides the tax free land, first response resources and municipal assets for the operation and access to MVRHS as well as the MVCS and MV Hospital which every adult and kid from Edgartown, Chilmark and Aquinnah use in some capacity every single day-at NO additional cost to these towns.
    If Edgartown, Chilmark and Aquinnah are so positively righteous in their formula positions-then I would suggest showing some community courage by constituting and attending a discussion by their respective members of Selectboards and Fincoms (which Oak Bluffs and Tisbury have attempted to constitute only to met with dismissiveness or petulant walking out of such discussions).
    The time has come to stop this walled fiefdom mentality relative to towns and finances and start acting as all-island stewards protecting the best interests of our island, our school and our kids.

    • Rich – Without supporting or opposing you perspective, I suggest that the categorization of other towns’ Finance Committee’s positions is inaccurate. I know the WT Committee of which I am a member has, as a body, taken no formal position on this issue ever. It has barely discussed it recently. In addition, with the passing of time, the Finance Committee members of today are not the same as just 2 years ago when you may have encountered them.

  5. Thank you Jim for a reasonable approach to solving the problem. It will surely require cooperative discussion to come to an agreement, but if it does nothing else, your proposal presents an alternate view that I believe all towns can and should consider worth meeting (soon) about. By the way, you make no mention of how you think Aquinnah, Chilmark and West Tisbury might share their 25%. Care to speak to that?

  6. Quite frankly, Mr. Weiss’s comments are one’s of genius. But, unfortunately, I believe that the Chilmark select board knows very well that this formula is entirely unfair and wants to provide the optics that they care.

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