With an $11.5 million draft budget for the coming fiscal year on the table for discussion this week, up-Island school committee members lightly sparred over cost allocation, an ongoing issue in the elementary school district that serves the three up-Island towns.

The draft budget, a 3.37 per cent increase over last year, was presented in a public hearing at the up-Island regional school district committee meeting Monday night.

The West Tisbury school portion of the budget will see a 2.27 per cent increase. Spending is down on fuel, furniture and assistant teacher salaries. Increased spending can be tracked in part to include upgrading a Spanish teacher and industrial arts teacher to full time and adding a part time special education teacher.

Operating costs at the Chilmark school will increase only slightly (.59 per cent). Spending is down on special education, utilities, painting, fuel and textbooks. A program previously run by the Chilmark library will now be run by the Chilmark School, but will not increase costs. The largest increase is in health, dental and life insurance.

Committee members delved into the finer details of the allocation of costs for students in the Bridge program. Hosted by the West Tisbury School but drawing students from all over the Island, the Bridge program serves students with intensive needs, including autism. Since 2008, two Bridge programs have been hosted at the Edgartown School. In 2014, a third Bridge program serving students from kindergarten to third grade was added to in the West Tisbury School.

Some committee members expressed concern that Bridge students from other towns were being counted as a part of the West Tisbury base population. The base population is used to calculate assessments for the superintendent’s budget, also called the shared services budget. “I don’t know why because we choose to host the program here, that the West Tisbury taxpayers have to foot that bill for those five students in the shared services budget,” said committee member Jeffrey (Skipper) Manter 3rd. Principal Donna Lowell-Bettencourt said so far West Tisbury taxpayers have not suffered financially. She also pointed out that Edgartown and Oak Bluffs have been hosting special education programs for much longer than West Tisbury.

“We’ve only had the Bridge program in the building for a couple years,” the principal said. ”Right now, and I believe last year was similar, we had the same number of students coming and going.”

The committee is expected to vote on certifying the budget at its next meeting.