Use of reserves concerns Riverhead school board member

03/23/2011 12:01 PM |

VERA CHINESE PHOTO | Riley Avenue Elementary parent Karen DiGiaimo said she is concerned over the loss of one security guard at the school.

The public has been mostly mum on spending under the Riverhead School District’s proposed 2011-12 $110.3 million budget.

But one school board member is concerned about how much money the district plans to use from the previous year’s fund balance.

During Tuesday’s school board meeting at Riley Avenue Elementary School, board member Tim Griffing said he is worried that using such a large portion — $3.4 million of the approximately $4 million fund balance — to offset a potential tax increase for Riverhead residents might lead to a larger tax spike in the future.

Last year, the district used $2.6 million of a $4 million fund balance, said interim assistant superintendent for operations and finance Joseph Singleton.
The district will likely use about $3.6 million in reserves for the 2012-13 school year, according to Mr. Singleton.
“That $3.4 million might not be available [next year,]” Mr. Griffing said. “You can’t bank on the same amount.”

Mr. Griffing said his concerns largely stemmed from the increase in the amount of money the district must contribute to the pension funds of former district employees. The $2.1 million state mandated increase, 39 percent over the previous year, is due largely to declining stock revenue in the down economy.

School officials said the fund balance would hopefully be replenished through unspent money under the 2011-12 budget. Mr. Singleton said fluctuations, such as changing oil prices and teacher turnover, often lead to a surplus at the end of the year.
Still, the exact 2011-12 fund balance will not be known until the end of that school year.

“We’re doing a lot of praying these days,” Mr. Singleton said during the meeting.

The tax levy — the amount of money the district collects from taxpayers — is still expected to rise 5.97 percent from $82.7 million this year to $87.7 million, even with the reserve fund drained. Without the use of those reserves, the increase would have been about 7.8 percent, according to a previous budget presentation.

That’s because Governor Andrew Cuomo has proposed cutting $2.9 million, or 16 percent, in state aid to the Riverhead district, causing administrators to plan for the worst, school officials have said.

The meeting was the third in a serious of budget presentations held at different schools within the district. The school board is scheduled to adopt the budget on April 12 and the public will vote on the spending plan May 17.
Safety worries at Riley

• Several parents commented on safety concerns over Riley Avenue’s dismissal process. Parent and Riley Avenue Parent Association member Karen DiGiaimo said the loss of one of the school’s two security guards — just one of 38 positions being cut districtwide in an effort to keep down spending — could lead to a safety hazard when children are getting on buses at the end of the day. The school will continue to employ the other security guard.

“To decrease security from two to one, I think is going to be a very big problem,” she said during the meeting.

Ms. DiGiaimo said she would like Riverhead Town Police to conduct a safety seminar for children or to place a crossing guard near the intersection with Donna Drive.

28 Comment

  • What portion of that $4 million balance will be used towards offsetting the proposed 22% increase in school taxes that the Flanders residents are being asked to pay? …do I hear crickets????? thought so.

  • In the Riverhead Central School District they have 3 Townships.Your Tax rate depends on the STATE EQUALIZATION rate for each township.and should equalize taxes on full valuation between towns.
    It is NOT the school district that sets your rate ….
    Maybe Flanders would rather go back to Southampton school District?I don’t think it would be any better..

  • Thanks for the clarification Laurie. I think people often forget about equalization.

  • Your Welcome..the thing that bothers me is the mandated pension Riverhead school District .The Teachers Retirement System and the Employees Retirement system lost a lot of money through Wall Street.So now we the taxpayer has to fill in that gap.The increase in this budget for 2011/2012 is 39% or 2,126,928 over last year.State Aid is being reduced by 14.2% or 2,674,432 .Between the two of those things with out other contract increases and other mandates increases the tax Levy by 5.7% or 4,939,546…
    From what I see the District did very good to bring in a low budget however ..I’m struggling how much more can I take even if it is a low increase..I’m not sure how much longer I can keep standing…..

  • Believe me we are all painfully aware of the equalization rate, but if there are 3 townships in RCSD then why do only Riverhead Town residents benefit from the $4million balance? A move to become a feeder district was visited a few years ago, but RCSD wouldn’t let us go. I love Riverhead Schools but anyone would have to admit that the tax increases over the last 3 years for Flanders residents are astronomical. Assemblyman Fred Thiele is proposing legislation, but we all know that will take a while…Just wondering why the district wouldn’t want to ease the tax burden for all residents of its district?

  • Flanders tried to join Hampton Bays 10 years ago. Where were you? Riverhead will not release the land of the golden eggs.

  • Don’t think it was the systems that lost money, rather the districts’ portions that have to be contributed. Oh, tell me this. How come the Riverhead school district doesn’t issue tax free bonds to finance their growth/improvement issues as many school districts do throughout NY state?

  • I was right there…..It was my understanding that Hampton Bays has no room for Flanders and They wont put it up for a vote.If you leave the District ,The district wouldn’t have to add on any schools.What I have got out of the school board meetings the last 11 years is the District is fine with Flanders going.
    The school district has nothing to do with equalization…the state sets it.Southampton assesses
    every year .So the more your house value goes up the more the equalization is higher.What Thiel is asking for is ..He wants a district like ours with more than one Town in it to have the same equalization.So one side doesn’t pay more than the other.In our case if this happens Riverhead will end up with Paying more and yours would drop.We probably would meet some where in the middle.
    If you really are concerned and feel my answers aren’t correct you can call our Superintendent Nancy Carney or email her or call her she will get back to you.

  • I am unable to answer your question However I will see if I could find the answer for you.
    Or you can call and ask yourself..
    Have a nice evening

  • The tax increase is partially due to the fact that southamptom incorrectly used cpf funds to epp the rate artificially low for a few years. This will not be paid back by residents, but the increase is the result of catching up.

  • On the other hand your taxes previously were very low because the Riverhead side was paying a larger portion which was not fair to us.

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