The Martha's Vineyard Regional High School's proposed renovation project took a key step forward Tuesday night, as Oak Bluffs became the first Island town to approve changes to the regional high school funding agreement at its special town meeting.

Voters convened at the regional high school performing arts center at 7 p.m. Tuesday to decide on six articles on the warrant, ranging from land declarations to the creation of a capital improvements stabilization fund. All six articles were approved in approximately one hour by 113 voters, according to town clerk Colleen Morris. Quorum was set at 50.  

In the most-discussed issue on the floor, Oak Bluffs residents debated changes to the high school regional agreement, which are necessary in order for the district to receive state aid from the Massachusetts School Building Authority for planned major renovations to the high school. The changes must pass a town meeting vote in all six Island towns.

Ahead of the vote Tuesday, Oak Bluffs select board member Brian Packish said approving the agreement was a way for the town to spearhead the high school renovation project.

School superintendent Richie Smith advocated for the new agreement. — Ray Ewing

“We have an opportunity to show leadership,” Mr. Packish said.

Most speakers at the meeting favored the changes to the agreement including a new funding formula for the renovation project, but some argued that the agreement does not go far enough to right inequities felt in school funding by Oak Bluffs taxpayers.

“The richest town on Martha’s Vineyard pays one-seventh of [the] taxes on a house of a million-dollars, compared to what a person in Oak Bluffs pays,” said Peter Palches.

Under the proposed changes to the regional agreement, Oak Bluffs taxpayers will be responsible for just under 23 per cent of the high school renovation cost. The existing funding formula for capital projects at the high school would see Oak Bluffs taxpayers bear more than 28 per cent of the cost.

Mr. Palches moved to table the article until the annual town meeting, but voters broadly rejected the measure. Voters at special town meeting ultimately approved the regional agreement changes, moving the document closer to implementation by a spring deadline for MSBA funding.

Town Administrator Deb Potter makes a clarification. — Ray Ewing

“They wish to see our towns working collaboratively … to move this forward,” said superintendent Richie Smith.

Voters Tuesday also approved two articles related to the creation of veterans housing with little discussion. Voters authorized the town to declare 50 Belleview avenue, a 3.4-acre property, as available for development of 10 to 12 affordable housing units for veterans and allowed the town’s municipal housing trust to solicit proposals for that project.

Voters approved the creation of a capital improvements stabilization fund, which allows the town to set aside funds for large-scale construction, repairs or improvements to town buildings estimated to cost more than $25,000.

“This is a new fund that we’re intending to fund at some future time,” town administrator Deborah Potter said.

Following some discussion about the best use of town funds, voters also approved up to $300,000 for a comprehensive assessment of the health of all town buildings and any immediately necessary repairs that may arise from such an assessment.

Some at the special town meeting argued that an assessment of town buildings would be better conducted internally. But Ms. Potter noted that the intention is to look for issues that may arise years down the line and begin planning for the long-term upkeep of town buildings.

“It is not intended to start just doing random regular repairs of a routine nature,” she said.

Voters ultimately approved the measure, with an anticipated cost of $100,000 for the assessment and the remaining funds slated for immediate repairs.

Finally, voters approved without discussion $35,000 for routine harbor maintenance, before the special town meeting was adjourned.