The Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School district committee this week postponed a vote on the FY 2021 budget, amid concerns about the lack of a clear policy over how to pay for capital spending projects.

The draft $23 million budget for FY 2021 represents a 4.85 per cent increase over last year. Special needs programs, contractual salary increases and transportation costs make up the bulk of the increases.

Ordinarily the committee votes to certify its budget on the first Monday in December.

But on Monday a plan to put three warrant articles in front of Island voters next spring to cover a series of capital expenditures was flagged by committee members as a potential problem.

“We keep pulling out warrant articles for capital expenses, but we haven’t defined how much it is or if it’s a one-time expense,” committee vice chairman Kris O’Brien said at the outset of the meeting. “We put the cart in front of the horse . . . I feel as though we need to slow down . . . and create a policy around these warrant articles.”

The three articles total $310,000; appropriations for each would be divided among the six towns. One article is for $100,000 to pay for a tree planting and landscaping project on high school property bordering the Deer Run residential subdivision. Another is for $25,000 to design an upgrade to the high school horticulture facility. A third article seeks $185,000 to cover a laundry list of projects that includes replacement of gym lockers, installation of a fire alarm panel and replacing the dust collection system in the building trades classroom.

School business administrator Amy Tierney said later that the capital expenditures were taken out of the budget and turned into warrant articles because they are one-time expenses.

Ms. Tierney also said the practice of pulling spending items for separate warrant articles is unorthodox.

“It is not normal for a regional school district to pull out warrant articles,” she said. “Everything should be built into the budget. That’s the way a regional school district operates and that’s the way the town selectmen expect it to operate.”

Regional high school spending and budgeting practices came under intense voter scrutiny late last spring when Island towns were asked to sign off on a series of transfers from free cash to cover unbudgeted expenses.

In the end the spending was approved, but school leaders were criticized for their approach, and for not budgeting more carefully.

On Monday committee member Robert Lionette and principal Sara Dingledy said if the capital items remain in the budget, spending cuts would likely be needed in other areas — such as staffing — in order to stay within the confines of Proposition 2 1/2, the state-mandated tax cap.

“To get to that 2.75 per cent, we’re going to have to do that through some sort of staffing reduction,” Ms. Dingeldy warned.

Teachers who attended the meeting registered their own concerns about any prospect of staff cuts.

But committee chairman Kimberly Kirk said facility needs at the high school have grown urgent. “We have inherited an aging facility, and the facilities in the building are reaching crisis level,” she said. “We all saw what happened in Tisbury and we don’t know what it would be like to have a crisis here.” She continued:

“As in any situation like this there are so many competing interests, and that building that you are sitting in right now is one of those competing interests. We have to what serves the best interest of not just the kids that are here, but the kids that will be here after we’re gone.”

In the end the committee agreed to send the budget back to its budget subcommittee for further review.

No meeting was scheduled for a vote on the budget, although the vote must take place by or before Jan. 6.