Carney: Law caps Riverhead school tax increase at 1.73%

03/13/2012 11:53 PM |

NEWS-REVIEW FILE PHOTO | Riverhead Middle School in Riverhead.


Due to restrictions from the state, the final tax levy for the Riverhead School District for the 2012-13 school year can only increase by 1.73 percent over this school year, the district’s superintendent said during a presentation of her proposed budget at Tuesday night’s school board meeting.

State law limits increases in the tax levy, the amount of money the district can collect from taxpayers, at 2 percent from year-to-year, but there are variables that affect the caps. Superintendent Nancy Carney said that due to a number of factors such as a lack of construction within the district and decreased capital costs, the tax levy for Riverhead is actually capped at the lower 1.73 percent.

“[The state] considers the growth of the town flat,” Ms. Carney said. “There are exemptions that can bring the cap up or down. You have many school districts out there whose levy is allowable under the cap to be 3 percent, 4 percent.”

Ms. Carney said she and other school officials had already planned for this lower cap while drafting the proposed spending plan for next year, which cuts more than $3.2 million to come under the cap. Due to precise figures provided by the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance, the district is able to finalize the amount of the levy: $88,292,387.

The district made the move last month to cut $1.9 million from next year’s budget by issuing layoff notices to 21 employees, including 12 teachers and nine teaching assistants.

Ms. Carney has said no in-school programs will be cut due to the layoffs, but that some classes will be offered less often.

Her proposed budget cuts the adult education program completely, while extra-curricular activities and sports would also face smaller cuts to equipment and coaches. She said the budget constraints mean the district will have to make “slight reductions” of co- and extra-curricular activities at the high school and middle school, and will eliminate after-school programs at all elementary schools.

Several sports teams would be combined rather than eliminated completely.

Another district budget proposal would combine the Riverhead Middle School and Pulaski Street School bus runs and combine bus stops to save an additional $300,000.

None of the district’s arts, music, or language programs would be cut, Ms. Carney said, though each department will now have to work with a smaller budget.
These proposals are all subject to alteration at the next board meeting on March 27, where the school board will review and revise the superintendent’s proposed 2012-13 budget.

“Nothing is set in stone,” Ms. Carney reminded.

The proposed budget also calls for a reduction in the appropriated fund balance, which is the leftover money the district doesn’t spend from the previous year’s budget. In previous years, the district could rely on spending a little less than planned and would use the remainder as tax relief for the next year. But because of the tax levy cap, Ms. Carney said the district would have to make each dollar count in future budgets, making it harder to rely on the fund balance from year-to-year.

• The school board also approved May 15 as the day for the school budget vote. Voting will be held at the Riley Avenue, Phillips Avenue and Aquebogue elementary schools, as well as Riverhead High School, from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.

• There will also be school board elections on May 15 to fill two open seats on the board left by Timothy Griffing, a member of the school board since 2003 who has decided not to run for reelection, and William Hsiang, who was appointed to the position after ex-board member Angela DeVito unexpectedly announced her resignation last June.


Those interested in running for the open school board seats can contact district clerk Barbara O’Kula at (631) 369-4724.

• School board vice president Gregory Meyer, whose daughter plays on the Long Island champion girls basketball team, passed on gratitude from members of the team for the support the community has shown during their title run.

Mr. Meyer commended the town for “packing the stands” at the team’s away games and rallying around the team.

“Thank you on behalf of all the girls,” Mr. Meyer said. “They will never, ever forget this feeling this community has given them.”

• A bus trip has been organized by RiverheadLocal founder Denise Civiletti to ferry a select group of Riverhead High School sports fans to Friday’s girls basketball semifinal game in Troy, N.Y.

Tickets for the bus cost $30 and are first come, first serve, Ms. Civiletti said during the public comments section of the school board meeting, before she got choked up while saying a few words about the team.

Contact Tammy Hayon at [email protected], or by phone at (516) 443-0739.

• Can’t make it upstate? will be streaming live video coverage of Friday night’s Riverhead game against Penfield. The game will be called by veteran sports journalist and News-Review web editor Grant Parpan.

It starts at 6:15 p.m., but broadcast will begin at 6 p.m.

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