High school funding agreement is reached

Town administrators, select board members, and school officials meet to discuss funding formula options. -Rich Saltzberg

A funding formula agreement for a new high school was reached Wednesday evening among members of a working group who represent the six towns of the Vineyard. 

Town administrators, select board members, and other town officials voted unanimously to adopt a 70 percent/30 percent breakdown of cost apportionment across the six towns. The 70 percent would be based on a pupil census average, and the 30 percent would be based on an equalized value average. Special dispensation was given to Oak Bluffs to offset the tax-exempt land the high school occupies —1 percent of the total cost of the high school project will be subtracted from the funding formula and given to Oak Bluffs per year over the life of the bonds used to finance the project. The rough estimate is that the figure would be $100,000 per year. The working group also agreed on a recommendation that the operating cost of the high school cannot increase more than 2.5 percent in a given year. If so, the overage would need to be sent to town meeting voters for approval. 

“We just have to suck it up and get it done for the sake of our children,” Aquinnah town administrator Jeff Madison said ahead of the vote. 

Reached after the meeting, Oak Bluffs select board member Brian Packish said the accord marks “a big turning point for how the six towns do business as an Island.”

The funding agreement is an important step in the process of seeking state reimbursement through the Massachusetts School Building Authority for the project. The Island has been accepted into the eligibility period by the MSBA, but is required to demonstrate a willingness to work together in funding the project.

The school committee had asked the towns to try to come to an agreement by mid-May. The district has only until the end of September to get all of its information in to the MSBA.