A West Tisbury committee has recommended changes in the way costs are shared among the three towns in the up-Island regional school district that would dramatically increase school spending in Chilmark and decrease spending in West Tisbury and Aquinnah.

In a report issued this week, the three-member study committee recommends that Chilmark taxpayers assume all costs for operating their town school, while the cost of operating the West Tisbury school would be split among the three towns based on enrollment numbers.

“It is time to take action,” the committee report concluded. The report was accepted by the town selectmen with discussion reserved for a future date.

Tension over cost-allocation in the up-Island school district has been building in recent years as school spending has climbed. The district serves Aquinnah, Chilmark and West Tisbury. There are two schools in the district. Enrollment has been on the rise at the K-8 West Tisbury School, including from outside the district through the school choice program, and on the decline at the smaller K-5 Chilmark. As of the annual school census on Oct. 1, there were 339 students in West Tisbury and 43 in Chilmark.

There has been more than one study of the cost allocation issue, dating back to 2006.

A seven-member task force appointed last year in West Tisbury recommended shifting some costs away from West Tisbury and onto Chilmark, but reached no conclusion about whether to dissolve the district. Chilmark later responded with its own detailed study and report.

This fall the three-member study committee in West Tisbury began meeting to develop a new formula. The committee was made up of Sue Silk, Doug Ruskin and Jeffrey (Skipper) Manter 3rd. Mr. Manter is a selectman and school committee member and longtime critic of school spending.

The two-page report issued this week began by focusing only on operating costs but later expanded to include capital projects and debt.

The committee concluded that since West Tisbury is able to accommodate all students in the district, that operating two schools is financial irresponsible. “Having the taxpayers [in the district] bear the additional expense of operating the Chilmark School is also financially irresponsible governance,” the report said.

The committee recommends a new allocation formula where Chilmark would assume responsibility for 100 per cent of the cost of its school, while the cost of the West Tisbury School would be divided among the three towns based on enrollment from each town in the district.

Under this scenario, West Tisbury’s budget allocation in fiscal year 2018 would drop from $7.7 million to $7 million. The Chilmark budget allocation would rise from $2.5 million to $3.4 million. And the Aquinnah budget allocation would drop from $1.1 million to $969,000.