A draft regional high school budget for the coming year and upgrades to an aging facility that are expected to cost millions of dollars were the main topics for discussion during a public meeting at the performing arts center Monday night.

The $18.6 million high school budget will be voted on next Monday at the regular meeting of the high school district committee. With the budget coming in at just .4 per cent above the current fiscal year, there are no major spending issues. “Things have stayed fairly stable,” interim principal Margaret (Peg) Regan said in presenting the draft FY 17 budget. “Instruction has gone up probably the most, but that is also because of raises and steps that teachers have negotiated,” she said. Salaries make up the majority of the budget. Mrs. Regan also has cut back slightly on administration by eliminating a second assistant principal and moving the special education director into instruction.

But revenues, including Chapter 70 school aid from the state, are trending downward which means town assessments are inching up. If the budget is certified as written, the six Island towns will collectively pay out $16.4 million next year through their respective assessments, an overall 2.4 per cent increase.

Meanwhile, urgent spending needs loom at the high school for overdue repairs to the building facility which saw its last significant upgrade 20 years ago. The school recently spent $150,000 on five studies focusing on different areas of the school, including HVAC systems, windows, doors, exterior walls and the outdoor track that is part of the school athletic complex.

Conceptual plan to convert high school library to Global Learning Commons project would cost $2.4 million. — Mark Lovewell

In total, the studies found upwards of $10 million in repairs are needed in different sections of the school. The HVAC study recommended a $4.2 million replacement of the system including upgrades to ventilators and controls, a new boiler and air conditioning. Last month, the school committee agreed to spend $350,000 on short-term repairs to the system.

A building study found that some $2.9 million in repairs are needed to replace windows and repair exterior walls and doors. The study revealed what a walk around the school also shows: chipped and peeling paint, broken wood, degrading sealant, rotting edges and cracked mortar and bricks. Inside classrooms, the school has begun to repair damaged ceiling tiles, one room at a time.

Refurbishing the track including a new surface, drainage and irrigation and bringing it into compliance with the Americans for Disabilities Act, is expected to cost $1.2 million.

The last major expansion at the school was completed in 1995, an $18.2 million project that included a gymnasium, library and performing arts center in addition to new classrooms.

How to pay for all the repairs is the next question. Currently the school has about $250,000 in maintenance and long-term maintenance funds.

School business administrator Amy Tierney said small repairs can be covered from the budget or by using excess and deficiency funds, but the high school is still discussing how to cover the larger expenses.

Finally, school librarian Kevin McGrath and Jay Litman from Fielding Nair International presented a conceptual design to update the library space into a 21st century space called a Global Learning Commons.

“A library in a school is very different than a public library,” said Mr. Litman. “A library in a school, it’s a teaching center.”

The conceptual design envisions expanding the library into the school courtyard with outdoor seating, a connected greenhouse and a small amphitheatre covered by sail cloth. Empty space above the current library would be transformed into a mezzanine. The mezzanine would be the biggest structural change; most of the other work would involve reconfiguring the interior. The current library was built in 1995, the space it occupies was formerly the gymnasium.

The cost of the Global Learning Commons project is estimated at $2.4 million.

The next meeting to discuss the high school facility will be Jan. 7 at 7 p.m. in the performing arts center.