The up-Island regional school committee voted this week to certify a budget for the coming fiscal year of $9.1 million, a 3.5 per cent increase over last year. Increases can be tracked to money that must be set aside for post-retirement benefits for school workers and funds for Chilmark school renovations.
Schools are now required to set aside money to cover the cost of future health benefits for employees who will retire. The school district will place $100,000 in the fund this year and every year going forward, school business administrator Amy Tierney said at the school meeting Monday.
There was some debate over a plan to add $100,000 to the budget to correct drainage problems around the Chilmark School. Principal Susan Stevens said the amount is based on an early estimate from a contractor; a more precise estimate will be available after the first of the year.
The committee voted to keep the money in the budget.
The budget also includes $67,000 for an additional teacher at the West Tisbury School as part of a plan to move away from combined classrooms in the lower grades. Principal Michael Halt said the school currently has three combined first and second-grade classrooms, but he wants to change next year to two first-grade and two second-grade classrooms. “In the last few years we have seen an uptick in the number and needs of kids entering our primary grades,” Mr. Halt said. “We have tried different approaches, but my best recommendation to make sure the students are hitting the goals we want is to change the sizing and configuration of those classrooms.”
Under the new budget Chilmark’s assessment will increase by $308,718, Aquinnah’s assessment will increase by $254,239, and the West Tisbury assessment will decrease by $245,349. Assessments are determined using a formula based on enrollment and other factors.