The Steamship Authority is on track to finish a difficult year in reasonably good financial shape, the last board meeting of 2009 was told last week.

As of the end of October, the boat line’s net operating income was almost $12 million, some $2.8 million better than forecast.

The monthly business summary continued the good-in-parts trend of recent months: revenues were sharply down, but so were costs.

First the bad news. Passenger revenues for October were down more than 14 per cent compared with budget projections. Car revenues were down $102,000 or 4.9 per cent, and freight revenue was down $425,000, or a whopping 21.8 per cent, compared with budget projections.

But operating expenses also were down sharply too, in large part because the cost of fuel, budgeted at about $3.50 a gallon actually came in at just over $2. Maintenance costs were down, the number of miles steamed was down, administrative costs were down.

And so it was a happy year-end meeting, with Nantucket governor Flint Ranney eliciting a chorus of support from fellow board members for his assertion that the decision five years ago to select Wayne Lamson as general manager was “one of the best decisions this board has ever made.”

The meeting also was a quick one.

With minimal discussion, governors agreed to renew a contract with the Vineyard Transit Authority for the bus shuttle service which operates between the Tisbury Park and Ride and the Vineyard Haven terminal.

In 2008, the SSA reimbursed the VTA $70,137. Up to the end of October this year, it paid $54,267, down a little over $5,000 on the comparable period last year, due to a decline in the numbers of people using the service.

But the number of people who use the park and ride is still substantial — more than 88,000 until the end of October, compared with about 96,000 last year.

The new one-year contract will operate under the same terms as the old one — the SSA will pay 50 per cent of labor and fuel costs, and another $200 a month to cover maintenance, insurance and other sundries.

The governors also renewed a transportation agreement with the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, which provides transport for students, teachers, administrators and game staff at a fixed cost, discounted roughly 50 per cent.

The current agreement, which expires next June 1, set a fixed price of $60,000. But the new agreement will be reduced to $55,000.

The staff summary explained that during the most recent fiscal year, the school’s use of the ferries had decreased almost five per cent.

“As the district has positioned vehicles on the mainland for staff travel, is no longer a member of the South Coast Conference and not responsible for the cost of athletic teams traveling to the Island . . . the staff is recommending the fixed price contract be reduced to $55,000, which would approximate the 50 per cent discount normally given to Island schools,” the summary said.

And the board quickly approved an agreement with Tisbury and the VTA to purchase and install two bus shelters on SSA property in Vineyard Haven.

In a report on capital projects, SSA director of engineering Carl Walker referred to problems encountered in building the new Oak Bluffs terminal.

Work had been delayed almost five weeks, he said, because of cracks which had appeared in the existing foundation of the old building, which was to be reused for the new one.

However, new foundation walls were being poured, and Mr. Walker said he hoped to have the project back on schedule by the end of next week, albeit at the cost of more manpower, more hours and “substantial” extra cost.

The project is scheduled for completion by next April.