The regional high school committee has unanimously approved an $18.6 million operating budget for fiscal year 2016 with relatively little comment or discussion.

At their regular meeting Monday, the committee certified the operating budget, which is up less than a quarter of a per cent more than last year, and approved $175,000 in spending on repairs to the high school.

“I’m actually going to vote yes,” said committee member Jeffrey (Skipper) Manter 3rd. “I want to let the new principal know I’m not such a bad guy.”

At a Nov. 24 public hearing about the budget, new high school principal Gilbert Traverso dissected the proposed high school budget in a 45-minute PowerPoint presentation punctuated with video clips.

During that presentation, Mr. Traverso paused between clips and slides to address specific issues he said he’s heard have raised some eyebrows. Salaries, which make up more than half the budget, are often questioned, the principal said.

“People may complain about wages,” Mr. Traverso said at the public hearing. “But the cost of living is at least 33 per cent higher here than anywhere else. You can’t get quality teachers here if you’re not looking to pay them.”

Projected expenses for next year also include $175,000 for extraordinary maintenance projects, a line item that was recently added following a facility tour of the high school this month that showed the building is in need of several improvements.

“There is a lot of work that needs to be done in the building,” Mr. Traverso said. He cited carpet replacements throughout the building, fire alarm upgrades and new exhaust fans, to name a few. He added that the school needs to act on these improvements as soon as possible, which is why the $175,000 was added.

The principal also highlighted the loss of some $800,000 in annual reimbursement money from the state for building upgrades in the 1990s that was paid off. Because of the drop in state aid, town assessments are projected to climb an additional $769,262.84, bringing the total assessed expenses for next year to $16 million. This year, $175,000 is being taken from the excess and deficiency fund to offset assessed expenses, bringing down town costs.

Mr. Traverso also spoke about plans to improve the vocational education program. “I don’t think it’s where it needs to be,” he said last week. “We are going to be focusing on improving that area.”

On Monday, committee members echoed previous discussions that the school needs to make building improvements a priority and in the end, the budget was easily approved.

Schools superintendent Dr. James H. Weiss reminded the committee Monday that budget shares assessed to each of the towns will not be determined until the governor’s state budget passes at the end of January. Mr Weiss said that by looking at this year's enrollment numbers, which are used in the state's statutory formula, Oak Bluffs is expected to take the biggest hit. He said Chilmark will pay less this year and the other five towns will not experience a large change from last year.

After the meeting, Mr. Traverso told the Gazette he was pleasantly surprised at the outcome. “I did not expect it to pass unanimously,” he said. “But I think the committee as a whole agreed and was interested in seeing this school run properly. . . and they are interested in the school’s best interest as well as the community.”