With little discussion, the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School district committee voted on Monday night to certify a $16.6 million operating budget for the coming fiscal year, a .98 per cent increase over last year.

Even with most teachers receiving two per cent contractual salary increases next year, the extra spending will be offset by staff reductions due to retirements and the elimination of the home economics program.

“When you look at the comparison for three fiscal years you can see we’ve done a pretty good job here of staying the course of keeping spending realistic while keeping the education level at a height we’ve come to expect,” principal Stephen Nixon said during a presentation of the budget to a school subcommittee last week.

Other spending cuts can be tracked to deferred long-term maintenance projects including track repairs, and the elimination of a vocational clerical position. This marks the third consecutive year of school budget cuts totaling more than $1.2 million.

The majority of the budget is committed to instruction, which includes textbooks, teaching supplies and faculty salaries and benefits.

“We have a very experienced, well-schooled group of teachers who are bringing high education into the classroom, but it does have a dollar attached to it,” Mr. Nixon said. “In our projections over [the past] three years we looked to eliminate eight positions over three years . . . we’ve eliminated 10 positions in that time period.”

Mr. Nixon also took special note of the problems the high school is experiencing with turnover among young teachers; he said few stay longer than a year largely due to the high cost of living on the Island. He predicted that the problem will increase in the next few years, since 65 of the 122 staff members are 49 or older and approaching retirement age.

Spending increases in the budget include $72,000 for a new full-time building and grounds coordinator, funding for a new teaching assistant in the special education department, money for teachers to attend conferences, fast ferry transportation, and $25,000 to prepare for the New England Association of Schools and Colleges accreditation evaluation in 2013.

“We’ve shown that we’re educationally strong at the high school and we’re fiscally responsible,” Mr. Nixon said at the end of the presentation.

“It’s incredibly fiscally responsible and incredibly well done,” agreed committee chairman Susan Mercier. On Monday night she reminded committee members of their responsibility to explain the budget to their respective towns.

This led to a discussion about the assessment method used by the district, a complicated and thorny subject for the last few years. There are now two choices for how to assess Island towns for their share of the high school budget: the enrollment method, the one used historically and spelled out in the regional district agreement some 50 years ago, or the so-called statutory method, a complicated formula devised by the state board of education and based on wealth. For the fourth year in a row, the committee voted to use the statutory method, primarily because the enrollment method would require the approval of all six towns. A vote by Oak Bluffs a few years ago to reject their high school assessment has essentially forced the school district to use the statutory method.

“It’s a very involved formula, the major thrust of which over the course of time is if you wait long enough the two [formulas] will look very much the same,” Vineyard schools superintendent James H. Weiss said. “Right now there are winners and losers.”

On a related topic, this week a Dukes County superior court judge dismissed a lawsuit that the town of Tisbury had filed against the state board of education, the school district and the town of Oak Bluffs challenging the use of the statutory assessment method (which currently costs Tisbury more and Oak Bluffs less than it would using the enrollment method).

The Hon. Cornelius Moriarty 2nd found the statutory assessment method is not a violation of law.

“Choosing how the commonwealth should meet its obligation to educate its children, including the financial aspects, is fundamentally political and is left to the governor and the legislature,” the judge wrote in part.

School district business administrator Amy Tierney said the assessments will not be determined until the end of January when the state budget is certified.

In other business this week, the committee announced that the Tisbury School has received a $72,000 grant to revamp its heating system to make it more energy efficient.

Citations for outstanding accomplishment from Cape and Island Rep. Timothy Madden were presented to biology teacher Elliott Bennett, librarian Sandy Mott and former physical education teacher Anne Lemenager. The citations were presented by legislative liaison Nell Coogan.