Repeated requests from the regional high school to spend unbudgeted funds have begun to raise eyebrows among some Island selectmen. In an email to his counterparts in other towns this week, Chilmark selectman James Malkin called for a meeting of the all-Island selectmen to discuss the issue.

“The current situation reflects a lack of leadership and oversight,” Mr. Malkin wrote in part.

In the latest request for funds, Vineyard schools superintendent Matthew D’Andrea is seeking permission from all six towns to use some $230,000 in excess and deficiency money to cover budget shortfalls for facility repairs and transportation costs at the high school. Additionally, the high school is seeking permission to borrow money for a new school bus. The shortfalls and borrowing needs became known early this month as school leaders reviewed finances near the end of the fiscal year.

The discretionary use of so-called E and D money has been in the public spotlight since this spring when school administrators discovered that they needed permission from Island towns to spend the funds.

Towns in turn have the discretion to call a special town meeting to let voters decide whether the E and D money can be spent for the requested purpose. If no meeting is called within 45 days (60 days in the case of the school bus borrowing request), the spending is allowed by default. Approval is needed from at least four of the six towns.

In March, the superintendent’s office requested permission to use $350,000 in E and D money for design work on new athletic fields. With annual town meeting warrants already set, three towns convened separate special town meetings to put the issue before voters.

Speaking to the Gazette this week, school administrators acknowledged the poor timing but said the requests were unavoidable this year.

“I understand the frustration. This is a change from the way we have done things in the past,” said superintendent of schools Dr. Matthew D’Andrea. “But this is a move that is in line with the regulations of the state, and it is also a way in which we can improve our transparency.”

School business administrator Amy Tierney said the process will be streamlined by next year so that E and D requests align with annual town meetings.

“It was never our intention to pepper the towns with votes that require town meeting approval,” she said. “Since this is the first year we’ve done it, it’s not consistent yet.”

But Mr. Malkin balked at the idea of convening a town meeting for the third time since April.

“Requiring two [special town meetings] in a three-month period that also includes an annual town meeting flies in the face of common sense and concern for the voters,” he wrote in the email. “STMs present an additional (and unbudgeted) financial burden to the towns and, more important, they require an additional commitment of time from each town’s citizens. It would be tempting for a town to simply not call the additional STM. But, critically, the failure of a town to call a STM is regarded as an affirmative vote by that town.”

Mr. Malkin said he is particularly aware of high school finances in light of the multi-million-dollar high school building overhaul that looms down the road.

“Right now our towns are struggling to come to grips with funding the enormity of a potential $120,000,000 regional high school rebuild/renovation. It is imperative that we have confidence in the financial numbers presented by our school administration,” he wrote.

Other selectmen, including Melinda Loberg of Tisbury and Jeffrey (Skipper) Manter 3rd in West Tisbury, have voiced similar concerns about high school spending.

Mrs. Loberg said she has begun the process to call a meeting of the all-Island selectmen, although it has not been scheduled yet.

Oak Bluffs selectmen have already opted to take no action on latest request from the high school, granting approval.

Citing a town bylaw that requires them to do so, West Tisbury selectmen have scheduled a special town meeting for June 18 to take up the request.

Other towns are expected to discuss the issue in coming weeks.