The up-Island regional school district committee voted Monday to close a budget gap created when West Tisbury voters rejected a Proposition 2 1/2 override question to fund $300,000 in school costs.

Board members reached agreement on a revised $10.3 million budget for fiscal year 2016 by trimming hours and shifting positions for several employees, and eliminating an education support professional in West Tisbury. But the reduced spending plan draws heavily from the district’s excess and deficiency fund, roughly the equivalent of free cash in a municipal budget. The committee voted to take $149,857 from that account. It also draws from so-called circuit breaker funds, money the state provides to educate special needs students who need more than the usual amount of support services. The board voted to take $100,000 from that account.

West Tisbury School principal Donna Lowell Bettencourt (center), Chilmark School principal Susan Stevens (right) and West Tisbury assistant principal Mary Boyd (left). — Mark Lovewell

That concerned West Tisbury representative Jeffrey (Skipper) Manter 3rd, who is also a West Tisbury selectman.

“We’ve only cut spending at the West Tisbury site $124,000,” Mr. Manter said, referring to his town’s share of the regional costs. “We’re digging a deep fiscal hole here. We’re not solving any problems, we’re just running away from them. I think the decisions we’re making will have a terrible impact on fiscal (year) 2017.”

West Tisbury has scheduled a special town meeting for June 2 to vote on the revised school budget.

Committee chairman Michael Marcus, who also represents West Tisbury, disputed Mr. Manter’s criticism of the spending reduction plan.

“I think we made a good effort to move in the right direction,” Mr. Marcus said. “We have sharpened everybody’s focus on the budget for 2017. I am taking it seriously. I think we’ve made a lot of very good progress given the time line we had and the issues we had.”

The committee approved the new budget by a vote of 4 to 1, with Mr. Manter the only dissenting vote.

Mr. Manter moved to reorganize school management in the coming year.

“I suggest that come June 30 of next year that we eliminate the positions of the principal of the Chilmark School, the principal of the West Tisbury School, and the assistant principal of the West Tisbury School, and replace them July 1 with an up-Island regional district principal and an up-Island regional district assistant principal,” Mr. Manter said. The motion failed to get a second from any of the four other committee members.

Mr. Manter then made a motion to ask the school administration to study whether the regional school district should operate only one school site, presumably the West Tisbury school. In recent weeks, Mr. Manter has questioned the structure of the regional school district, where West Tisbury, with the largest school and the most students, pays the lion’s share of the costs.

School superintendent Dr. James H. Weiss recommended one way to cut budget, but committee went a different way. — Mark Lovewell

Two weeks ago he moved to put a second article on the June 2 special town meeting warrant to have the town withdraw from the regional school district. Then last week he agreed with his fellow selectmen that the article should be tabled on the town meeting floor; instead a committee will be appointed to study the issue.

At the meeting Monday the two other committee members from West Tisbury said they backed the idea of more study. “It does bear investigation, knowing the benefits to each of the towns for staying in or not staying in a region,” said Mr. Marcus. “The initial reason [for creating a school district] was to have a level of reimbursement from the state, which has been going down, declining significantly. I don’t know how that study is going to get done. I don’t know who’s going to get hired to do it, I don’t know who’s going to fund that. But I think we should know the answer to that question. What is the impact of staying or not staying in a region?” he added.

West Tisbury representative Kate DeVane concurred.

“Looking more closely at all of the positions and all of the situations, what is really running these two schools, that’s something we should be really looking at very closely, overall with every position in the school system and in the shared service program,” she said. “Skipper’s point is an important one. We just keep expanding and we need to figure out whether or not we’re doing it in the most appropriate way. I don’t think we can do it in the 11th hour when we’re trying to solve a budget problem for fiscal year 2016.”

Vineyard schools superintendent Dr. James H. Weiss opened the discussion by recommending deeper cuts in spending, while relying less on reserve funds.

Mr. Weiss suggested reducing the district’s contribution for future health benefit costs for retired town employees, known as OPEB (Other Post Employment Benefits). His plan called for contributing $100,000 toward that future liability, but the committee voted to keep the contribution at the original budget amount of $150,000.

The committee also rejected the recommendation that school district secretary begin work halfway into the fiscal year, saving $30,089, and rejected a recommendation to eliminate $5,176 from the budget for Island Grown Initiative, which provides locally-grown food for the school lunch program.