Adult and Community Education of Martha’s Vineyard (ACE MV) may have found a lifeline to pull it out of a funding crisis.
The all-Island school committee voted last week to act as the fiscal agent for the educational nonprofit for one year, serving as a conduit for public funds directed to ACE.
Following a model currently employed by Vineyard Health Care Access, a group which uses the county as its fiscal agent, the towns will be asked at town meetings this spring to fund slightly under half of ACE’s operating budget.
Each meeting warrant will include an article authored by the committee, which seeks a combined $90,000 from taxpayers in all six towns. Each town’s share is determined by the 50-50 funding formula, which is based on property values and population.
In August, ACE announced that without a sustainable public funding source, it would not be able to continue the off-season coursework it has offered since 2008.
Enrollment has risen significantly in the past few years, but administrative needs have been met by a mostly volunteer staff, ACE board members told the committee last week.
“We are a victim of our own success,” Grace Sullivan, a member of the board, told the committee.
Town funding would allow the organization to pay its staff.
“The program has grown exponentially, and now we realize that we need a more business-minded infrastructure,” said Judy Miller, a member of the board. She added: “We have established a budget with an administrative structure that will allow us to provide real fiscal management.”
ACE’s total expenses are estimated at $190,400, according to a proposed 2015 budget approved by the board. Total income is $100,700 without town funding. The budget includes a $300 shortfall that board members said will be erased through fundraising.
The group researched the funding models of other community education programs, and discussed various options with government and school officials before settling on a plan.
They learned that they could not petition the towns directly for funding in the spring, as public entities cannot legally provide direct economic support to private groups such as 501(c)(3) tax-deductible organizations.
But long-term security for ACE is still not guaranteed. Each town must approve ballot questions in order for the model to take effect. The group will take their petition to each finance committee in the coming months.
If the model is approved, the school district will issue the request for proposals.
“Welcome to the family,” said chairwoman Susan Mercier following the unanimous vote.