The Martha’s Vineyard regional high school district committee voted Monday to certify a $19.9 million 2018 budget, a 6.68 per cent increase over last year.
At a public hearing last week, principal Sara Dingledy said much of the rising cost is due to a new maintenance plan devised to address ailing facilities at the high school. At the committee meeting on Monday, superintendent Dr. Matthew D’Andrea added that a lot of the increases in the budget were unavoidable.
“This has not been a great year for some of the outside costs that have hit this budget,” he said. “Health insurance up 10 per cent, we have residential costs that have come up from the elementaries that we have to absorb, and the facilities issues. So our budget was going up anyway. And maybe next year will be a better year and maybe it won’t.”
Acknowledging concerns about the high cost of the budget voiced at the public hearing, Mr. D’Andrea suggested using excess and deficiency funds to pay for the $288,783 increase to the OPEB payment (health insurance, special education residential care expenses and other post-employment benefits), or keeping the increase in the budget and offsetting the budget with $288,783 of excess and deficiency funds.
Chairman Robert Lionette expressed concern that not including the increase in the budget would make it more difficult for them next year to continue their planned increases of payments into OPEB.
“This was the first year of a three year program to get us to our full, normal cost plus interest...so by pulling it out, we’re still committing that money this year, but we are not memorializing that payment,” he said.
“It’s not part of the base,” agreed Jeffrey (Skipper) Manter 3rd. “So what do we do next year?”
To address both the concerns raised at the public hearing and by committee members, the committee voted to keep the increase in the budget, but offset the budget with corresponding excess and deficiency funds.
The committee voted eight to one to certify the budget with Mr. Manter dissenting.
Following the budget discussion, Mark McCarthy, the athletic director of the high school, informed the committee that the high school has applied to move from the Eastern Athletic Conference to the Cape and Islands League. The Cape and Islands League has accepted their application, he said.
“We were probably one of the founding schools in the Cape and Islands back in the ‘60s...this is an opportunity to get back in, get some more local rivalries,” he said. “It will give us more teams to play.”
The school is required to give the Eastern Athletic Conference one year’s notice, so Mr. McCarthy hopes the school will be playing in the Cape and Islands league in the 2018-2019 school year.
“I think for the Island it will be nice to be back as part of the Cape and Islands,” he said. “It can’t be the Cape and the Islands without us.”