The Steamship Authority board agreed Tuesday to expedite public hearings on applications from Hy-Line Cruises and Seastreak to expand passenger service to Martha’s Vineyard and approved a $91 million operating budget for next year. Senior managers said they were not recommending any passenger fare increases for the coming year.

Two private ferry services have proposed additional service from the Vineyard to Nantucket beginning next summer. The Steamship Authority, chartered to provide year-round service to the two Islands, is allowed to license competing ferry service.

General manager Wayne Lamson. — Steve Myrick

The Hy-Line proposal would expand service between the Islands from one to three trips per day. Hy-Line also wants to begin high-speed ferry service from Hyannis to Oak Bluffs, replacing a 150-passenger conventional vessel with a 350-passenger high-speed boat.

Seastreak has applied to run passenger service from New Bedford to Nantucket. If approved by the board, that run would include a stop in Oak Bluffs.

Vineyard governor and board chairman Marc Hanover questioned whether public hearings were needed for the Hy-Line proposal, but the members from Falmouth and New Bedford strongly advocated for hearings.

“It seems quite obvious the will of the board is to have the hearings,” Mr. Hanover said at the meeting, held at the Oak Bluffs library. “We’ll have the public hearings.”

The second of the four public hearings is scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 27 at the Oak Bluffs library beginning at 2 p.m.

Hearings are scheduled on Nantucket on Oct. 26, in New Bedford on Oct. 28 and in Hyannis on Oct. 29. The SSA will accept written comments until Oct. 29.

Marie Laursen, a Vineyard Haven resident, asked the board to consider the impact of expanding passenger service.

“We have bigger ferries with bigger capacities, and I don’t hear much of anything said on what the impact is on the infrastructure of Martha’s Vineyard,” she said.

“We keep building houses, and more people keep moving here,” said Mr. Hanover.

“That’s not our fault,” Mrs. Laurson said. “I would just like to ask the board to take that into consideration.”

Michael Santoro, chairman of the Oak Bluffs board of selectmen, said the SSA should be encouraging passenger traffic.

“If we’re building passenger ferries, aren’t we encouraging passengers to walk on,” he asked, “instead of bringing cars to the Island?”

Elizabeth Gladfelter, the newly-appointed Falmouth governor, asked general manager Wayne Lamson to study options to shift more freight shipments from Woods Hole to New Bedford.

General counsel Steven Sayers said a 2012 study showed dedicated freight service from New Bedford would be unprofitable.

Oak Bluffs town manager Bob Whritenour said town officials would support adding freight service from New Bedford. He said shipping trash and recycling from Oak Bluffs and Tisbury to New Bedford remains a goal of the two towns, but they have not yet found a way to make such a business model economical.

“When you focus on just hazardous materials or just solid waste, what you’re doing is creating an economy that can’t sustain,” Mr. Whritenour said. “Solid waste, and maybe the hazardous material trips, have to be accompanied by more commercially viable options, whether that be vehicles, whether that be commercial transportation, that’s where the economic engine really exists.”

Mr. Sayers said his staff would explore alternative options, including an analysis of whether a private firm might find the idea financially viable, and report back to the board.

The board also unanimously approved a $91 million 2016 operating budget, a 2.1 per cent increase over estimated 2015 spending.

The budget includes a five per cent hike in salary costs, a 16.6 per cent increase in benefit costs, and a 17.4 per cent increase in fuel costs compared to projections for 2015 spending.

“Payroll reflects changing of crews,” said treasurer Robert Davis. “We’ve gone from a single crew to a double crew and from a double crew to a triple crew at certain times of the year to meet the demand for service.”

Mr. Davis projects the ferries will consume more than $5.5 million worth of fuel in 2015. The 2016 budget calls for spending almost $6.5 million on fuel, using an estimate of crude oil prices ranging from $52 to $62 per barrel.

The budget for next year assumes significant reductions in maintenance costs for vessels (23.3 per cent) and for terminals (46.5 per cent).

In other business, Carl Walker, director of maintenance and engineering, indicated construction delays and minor design changes could threaten on-time delivery of the new hybrid ferry Woods Hole, which is now scheduled for April 29, 2016.

“I’m going to do my best to keep the schedule,” Mr. Walker said. “We have to look at these [delays] and be realistic.” The new vessel, which is scheduled to begin a route from Woods Hole to Oak Bluffs next spring, is under construction in Louisiana.

The board also approved an agreement with the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) to provide discounted fares to its members.

Under the agreement, the Wampanoag Tribe will transfer $200,000 it receives in federal transportation funds to the Steamship Authority, and the ferry line will discount all fares for eligible tribal members by 20 per cent.