The Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School school committee is tightening spending to stay within the operating budget for the rest of the fiscal year after unexpected costs because of staff on extended sick leave.

Two members of the high school staff are on unforeseen extended sick leave, interim principal Margaret (Peg) Regan told the school committee Monday night, which has required the school to pay nearly $100,000 out of their operating budget for long-term substitutes. Extended sick leave is not built into the budget.

Ms. Regan said the school has cut costs by restricting extraneous spending to necessary educational items, with any discretionary staff spending put off until July 1.

“We need to put a brake on anything that isn’t absolutely necessary for education,” she said. “We’re trying to not have it penalize education or teaching and learning.”

One staff member, who is using the extended sick leave to care for a family member, recently approached the sick bank to get more time, she said. They were denied due to the wording of their contract. Other teachers voted to donate 30 sick days to the staff member, a practice that has been approved in the past. The school committee voted to approve the donation, contingent on advice of counsel.

Mrs. Regan said funding for sick days is often misunderstood.

“The staff that are voting this actually believe that they’re somehow donating actual money back into the operating budget for this teacher, or any teacher, to have this,” she said. “That’s not true...there is no actual exchange of money from any personnel. It comes out of the operating budget that we create every year. So even though they lose a day off of their accumulated day, there is no actual exchange of funds.”

Looking to the future, the committee considered a reserve fund or building in sick days to the budget. Committee member Jeffrey (Skipper) Manter 3rd questioned if this type of issue occurred enough to put it in the budget, favoring instead the reserve fund.

As for this year, finance manager Mark Friedman said the school would be able to operate with in the budget.

“I expect it to be tight — tight, but on course,” he said.

In other fiscal business, the committee discussed the payment of Other Post Employment Benefits (OPEB). At the February school committee meeting Mr. Manter suggested using a percentage of excess and deficiency funds to pay for OPEB, which includes health insurance for retired employees.

Under state statute, the school is allowed to keep five per cent of excess funds from the budget each year. Last year the school had $877,000 in its excess and deficiency fund. This year, they are expecting about $693,577 to be certified by the state. Typically, the school uses the extra funds for unbudgeted expenses that come up in the school year. Two years ago the fund was used to help ease the blow from a spike in town assessments.

Superintendent Dr. Matthew D’Andrea said while spending a portion of the so-called E and D on OPEB liability would be a good practice, it would not be a good policy at this time.

“Tying up any E and D at this point would not be prudent” he said.

Chairman Lisa Reagan agreed.

“If I were sitting in a brand new building that had a built-in, funded maintenance plan I would feel a heck of a lot better about making it policy or even practice for E and D,” she said.

Mr. Manter continued to advocate for aggressive repayment of OPEB liability.

“I think we need to address the debt we have in a more positive and aggressive way to make room for the debt we’re going to have in the future,” he said.