Riverhead school officials say they are moving forward with plans to address the district’s crumbling and overcrowded buildings. This, despite a potential state law capping annual school tax hikes at 2 percent and budget measures that will see at least 15 teacher positions cut for next year.
In an interview, Riverhead Superintendent Nancy Carney explained that debt service for capital improvement projects are excluded from the Governor Andrew Cuomo’s current tax cap proposal, and she doesn’t expect that provision to change.
She said she could not stress enough what bad shape the school buildings are in.
“We can’t ignore the deteriorating conditions of our buildings,” Ms. Carney said. “We’ve had numerous roof leaks this winter. A classroom had to be evacuated in one building because the ceiling tiles collapsed. Our roofs are no longer under warranty and it is becoming more difficult to repair them due to their age.”
“We need to preserve the community’s assets,” she continued. “We need to address infrastructure and space needs that no longer provide a safe and healthy learning environment for our students.”
She did say that no bond proposal would go to voters until next school year, however.
Meanwhile, a committee formed to craft an infrastructure plan, which Ms. Carney called “very committed,” is continuing to meet.
The Riverhead School District’s Community Partnership for Revitalization Committee — a group of taxpayers, teachers and administrators dedicated to devising a community-supported plan for district-wide buildings and grounds improvements — was originally expected to present a plan by the end of January, but that schedule had not been adhered to, the News-Review reported last month.
At the time, committee members said they were far from reaching a consensus on what improvements are needed at the district’s seven schools.
“The…committee is very committed to working together to present a proposal for building revitalization to the board of education that they believe the taxpayers will support,” Ms. Carney said this week.
Voters overwhelmingly rejected a $123 million expansion plan last February. That proposal called for 53 additional classrooms and included major renovations in every building, as well as new ball fields at the district’s main campus north of Pulaski Street. Also, the Roanoke Avenue school would have been converted into administrative offices. The bill would have been paid with taxpayer money over 23 years.
Committee members have said the next plan must include only necessities, rather than optional additions and improvements, to gain community approval.