Last Thursday, Oct. 5, I attended a joint meeting of the Tisbury selectmen, planning board, finance committee, executive committee, and the Tisbury School building committee. The meeting began with the announcement that there would be no public comment, that this was an opportunity for the town’s boards to “catch up” on the school building committee’s financial picture for their plan for the future demolition and rebuilding of our elementary school. The building committee has voted to ask the Tisbury taxpayers to spend $47 million on an 80,000-square-foot school, 35 per cent larger than what we have now, with a projected lifespan of 50 years. According to Tisbury finance director Jon Snyder, if this project succeeds in getting a two-thirds majority vote at town meeting, as well as at the ballot box next spring, Tisbury’s real estate taxes will be going up by about 10 per cent of your valuation, or about $100 per $100,000 valuation of property, every year for 20 years.

The school building committee has turned a deaf ear to the many public requests for an independent evaluation of the condition of the existing school. It is a classic 1929 structure, with a gym added in 1938, and extensive renovations and additions done in the mid-1990s. It also has a new roof and boiler. Without an objective study (there was one done a few years ago, but no one can find it,) it is not known to the taxpayer if the building is worth saving. The school building committee has been asked repeatedly for this information, and has not given a satisfactory reply to honest citizen inquiries as to how the committee reached its conclusions. How can we make such a momentous, expensive decision without objective, factual information? Do we really need a new school, or do we just want one? Does this plan recreate existing space? How will it change the neighborhood? With a declining school enrollment, it doesn’t add up.

If we vote to tear down the school, we will lose an opportunity to show the students that we value the continuing use of a historic building, and that we see it as an asset to the town. This has been done in many towns across the commonwealth. Renovating would also prevent many tons of material from being carted away as waste to be buried in a landfill “somewhere.”

Why not take a closer look at a renovation with an addition, you might ask? “It’s too late now, and there is not enough money,” according to Richard Marks, the owners project manager of Daedalus Projects Inc. This is unacceptable. Does anyone else have the sense that we the taxpayers are being pushed into a bad decision?

Marie Laursen
Vineyard Haven