MVRHS reconsiders feasibility study vote

Fiscal year 2024 budget certified; regular-season sporting events free until February.

The MVRHS committee will be asking for the full $2 million from the Island towns. — Eunki Seonwoo

Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) committee voted 6-1 to ask for the full $2 million from the Island towns for the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) feasibility study. This request would appear on the towns’ annual spring town meeting warrants. Committee member Skipper Manter, who is also a West Tisbury select board member, was the sole dissenting vote. 

When the committee voted in December to send the draft warrant language article to the towns, Manter suggested using $500,000 of excess and deficiencies (E and D) funding to reduce the “sticker shock” of the $2 million request. However, committee chair Robert Lionette shared during the Monday evening meeting an update he heard from bond counsel. “When we first started talking about [a] feasibility study, I was very enamored of the idea of taking money from our E and D to cut it down a little bit … to sweeten the offer to the towns by cutting half a million dollars off,” Lionette said. “But after hearing the value of keeping our E and D up to a certain threshold … I have flipped my position.”

Although using $500,000 to offset the feasibility study was enticing, Lionette asked committee members whether they would reconsider the original vote, and ask the towns for the full amount, with the idea “this doesn’t start for another year.” 

“At the time I was pitching this, along with Skip, [we were not] fully aware this was reimbursable, and it is, up to 38 percent,” Lionette said. “At this point, I would rather ensure that our position is strengthened vis-à-vis bond counsel than to take the [$500,000] out.” 

Martha’s Vineyard Public Schools business administrator Mark Friedman pointed out that the school district’s financial advisor and bond counsel recommended in an email not using the E and D offset. When asked by committee member Michael Watts about reimbursements, Friedman said, “We’ve reached out to MSBA, but we haven’t had detailed discussions about how every expense will be reimbursed.” Additionally, money would go into the school’s revenue, and the $500,000 would not be refilled in E and D by the reimbursement. 

After further discussion, the committee voted 6-1 to rescind the December vote. The committee then voted 6-1 to send the amended draft warrant article language to the towns, asking for the full $2 million without the offset. Manter cast a nay vote both times. 

Meanwhile, the committee certified the fiscal year 2024 budget in a 6-1 vote. Manter was the sole dissenting vote against the $25.1 million budget in December for its use of E and D funds. 

The committee unanimously approved using contingency funds to cover repairs to the Performing Arts Center and for the purchase of a special education van, $206,518.59 and $85,943 respectively, in two 6-1 votes. Manter cast the dissenting votes, concerned by how much of the contingency funding was being used.

The committee unanimously approved suspending ticket fees for MVRHS regular-season sporting events until another discussion could be held in February. The decision stemmed from a request from the MVRHS student government, which asked for ticket fees to be suspended where feasible to let students cheer on their peers without monetary concerns, and to promote school spirit. The committee decided to extend the no-fee month to all people, to see how it affects attendance. However, MVRHS athletics director Mark McCarthy said some events, semifinals and beyond, may require ticket fees per Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association rules. 

The committee unanimously approved accepting nine grants totaling $459,640.84 for the public schools on the Island. Grant sources include state funding and private organizations like Cape Cod 5 and the Sound Foundation. The committee unanimously approved Arthur Smadbeck to be an Edgartown representative for the school building committee.