The Riverhead School Board unanimously adopted a budget for next year on Tuesday night, opting to use additional state aid that recently came down the pike partly on more teachers next year, and partly to reduce the tax burden.
The proposed budget, a $121.2 million spending plan that proposes a tax levy increase of 2 percent, will require taxpayer approval next month.
Riverhead School District was given about $850,000 more in aid in a final state budget that was adopted last month. At the suggestion of Superintendent Nancy Carney, Riverhead’s tentative budget includes using $368,000 of the additional state aid to reduce the tax levy rate bump, which had previously stood at 2.4 percent. In addition, the district now proposes hiring two new English as a Second Language teachers.
The estimated tax hike is below the state-mandated allowable tax levy rate of 2.4 percent, or $93.8 million, which represents the increased amount the school can collect from property taxes with a simple majority vote.
As for boosting the district’s ESL program, Ms. Carney has said that during the 2005-06 school year, the district had 378 ESL students and 11 ESL teachers. Although the district’s ESL student population swelled to 870 students in 2013-14, the district only had 13 ESL teachers, she said.
School board vice president Greg Meyer had requested at the April 8 meeting that the district look into hiring at least another middle school guidance counselor.
Ms. Carney said during Tuesday’s meeting that funding for the new hire isn’t included in next year’s budget because her office is in the process of securing a grant that will allow the district to employ more guidance counselors.
In addition to voting on the budget, residents will also be asked to vote on two ballot proposition proposals.
The first one is for a $3.98 million bond proposal for bus purchases.
Ms. Carney has said that if the bond is approved, the district will be able to buy about 35 large propane-powered buses, as well as about five handicapped vans, over a five-year span.
Voters authorized a program in 2007 to purchase school buses each year, retiring old vehicles in the process.
However, that five-year program has ended and those funds have been spent.
The school board also approved a second ballot proposition to grant an easement to Long Island Head Start. Ms. Carney has said the district sold a portion of land at Phillips Avenue School in Riverside to Head Start for about $10 in 1994. During recent renovation work at Phillips, Ms. Carney said the county health department discovered the land transfer was “never formalized” and needs to be completed before any final permits are issued for a new sanitary system at the school.