Officials contemplate higher school building costs

Town officials face some pushback in feedback. 

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Town officials mulling over details about the MVRHS building funding formula. — Eunki Seonwoo

The Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) funding formula working group discussed the possibility of higher than expected costs for the school building project.

Current projections still suggest it will cost around $105 million for a new or fully rebuilt high school, even with some tinkering with different student counts and varying time frames. It is presumed that the high school will only need to pay $65 million with the rest covered by the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) Core building program. The school was accepted into the program’s eligibility period in March with the stipulation that all Island towns would come to a consensus on a funding formula for the feasibility study and the project. 

West Tisbury select board member Cynthia Mitchell told the group that she and West Tisbury town accountant Bruce Stone received “a bit of a reality check” after discussing the projected cost with some of the MVRHS staff. There was a concern that the projected cost was too low of an estimate. 

Edgartown select board member Art Smadbeck said he thought it was “premature” to say that since there are still details that need to be settled in the future, such as whether the construction will be for a new high school or heavy rebuilding. 

Martha’s Vineyard superintendent Matt D’Andrea provided the costs of building projects in other schools for comparison. Cape Cod Technical High School is budgeting $128 million and Nauset Regional High School is going through a $131 million building project, according to D’Andrea. 

“These costs are skyrocketing, and I’m only saying that just so everyone knows that $100 million is probably not going to do what we want to do here,” D’Andrea said. 

Martha’s Vineyard Public Schools business administrator Mark Friedman pointed out that the task of the working group was not to set a cost but to come up with a formula. The $105 million is just a baseline to work with and the real numbers can be lower or higher. 

Members of the working group also came back with feedback from their towns.

Chilmark select board chair James Malkin said he faced some pushback from his town’s finance committee. 

“Nobody wants to see taxes increase,” Malkin said. “Having said that, there is a recognition that we have to move forward. We don’t want to lose the opportunity to get state money.”

Oak Bluffs select board member Brian Packish said his constituents “had concerns over the 75 [percent] portion being tied to enrollment” and that some people thought the 25 percent equalization was not a number the town could fully work with. Packish said he will be back with more information after having more discussion with the rest of the Oak Bluffs board on Tuesday. 

During the previous meeting, the working group had agreed 25 percent equalized valuation (EQV) and 75 percent enrollment would be the most agreeable formula to use for now. 

Tisbury select board chair Jeff Kristal said the town is in an “odd spot” because whoever he talked to about the high school formula agreed that progress is needed, but would also ask “what about Tisbury School?” The primary school has a $55 million building plan underway and Kristal said the people he talked to wanted the town’s primary focus to go to Tisbury School. 

The working group’s next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, May 11, at 6 pm.

2 COMMENTS

  1. One thing left out of this conversation is that 80% of our tax revenue comes from the summer people who don’t send any kids to our schools. Let’s build the school that we need and that will accommodate island kids for now and for the future. I think we should be prudent in the costs for the school but let’s stop pretending that islanders are footing the whole bill.

  2. We are going to need tampon machines-in boys bathrooms because Oregon just passed a law called The Menstrual Dignity Act which forces schools to do it. I am not fabricating.

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