The Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School district committee voted this week to certify a $17.6 million budget for the coming fiscal year, an increase of $732,927 or 4.3 per cent.
“Much of the budget is driven by things we cannot control,” high school principal Stephen Nixon said during a public presentation of the budget last week, noting fixed costs that include salaries, debt service, retirement, shared services and health insurance. Those costs alone total $5.4 million, an increase of 13.3 per cent over last year, Mr. Nixon said.
Salaries account for more than half the budget (51 per cent), while retirement, insurance and debt service account for 23 per cent. Mr. Nixon said 69 per cent of the high school staff, about 58 teachers, are at the top of the pay scale with higher salaries acquired through years of teaching and degree level.
“We have such a large number of teachers with advanced degrees, which directly ties into salaries,” Mr. Nixon said. More than half the staff is over the age of 49, he said, with only two teachers younger than 26.
“For years we were top-heavy with
age, which is not a bad thing,” the principal said. “But we were having difficulty getting young people coming out of college to come here because it was beyond their means.”
Contract negotiations are under way this year and any increases that stem from new contracts for teachers and other school employees are yet to be determined. The 2014 fiscal year begins July 1, 2013.
The budget for the coming year also includes a $595,761 increase for residential placement tuitions for special education students who must receive services off-Island. Interim director of student support services Donna Lowell-Bettencourt said there are currently 12 high school students in residential placements. She said they are not new to the system, but costs were under-budgeted last year.
And while fixed costs are on the rise, total state reimbursements have decreased by $539,177 in the last five years, Mr. Nixon said.
The vote to certify the budget was unanimous.
In other business at the meeting Monday, the district school committee approved an improvement plan for the high school baseball field proposed by Jerry Murphy, general manager for the Martha’s Vineyard Sharks.
The organization wants to install six field lights and 420 stadium seats to attract more fans to the games.
“The last two years our attendance figures have not been what we thought they’d be,” said Mr. Murphy. “Whenever it’s a really nice day, we simply don’t get anyone coming to the game. The reality is people come to the Vineyard to go to the beach, and for residents here, it’s prime time for them to work. So the solution we came up with is to put lights in so we can have night games.”
He said the lights would cost about $220,000 and the seats around $60,000 to $70,000; all would be financed by the Sharks organization.
The committee approved the plans with the condition that Mr. Murphy meet with the high school’s neighbors to discuss the plan. Mr. Murphy said the organization also needs approval from the Federal Aviation Administration. Martha’s Vineyard Airport manager Sean Flynn said later he is working with Mr. Murphy to secure approval for the plan. “We are very supportive of the team and are lending our assistance to work through the federal process,” said Mr. Flynn. “We are also ensuring that the lights don’t have a negative impact on the approaches into the airport.” The high school budget will go to voters in the six Island towns for approval at their annual town meetings in the spring.