Voters asked to approve bus garage, turf field, repair reserve

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04/04/2015 8:00 AM |

Riverhead school district residents will be asked to approve three propositions — relocating the bus garage, bonding for a turf field and establishing a new repair reserve account — at the May 19 budget vote.

The school board unanimously approved placing the propositions on the ballot during its March 24 meeting after Superintendent Nancy Carney gave presentations on the proposals.

Although residents voted down a proposal in May 2013 to relocate the bus garage to Riverside, they approved a second proposition on the ballot that same year to establish a Transportation, Maintenance and Athletic Fields Capital Reserve Fund that would top out at $10 million.

Since then, Ms. Carney said $1,325,000 from the sale of development rights to Suffolk County of district-owned land on Tuthill Lane in Aquebogue — along with $651,000 it received after selling that property to Aquebogue’s Paumanok Vineyards — has been placed into that voter-approved reserve fund. She recently confirmed the remaining $6.74 million in that reserve account has been funded from end-of-year budget surpluses.

During Ms. Carney’s presentation, she described the district’s ability to realize year-end savings as “conservative” budgeting.

According to an annual state-mandated audit prepared June 30 by Port Jefferson accounting firm Cullen & Danowski, the school board approved a resolution to increase the reserve with about $5.4 million from a 2014 budget surplus.

Relocating the district’s bus complex carries a $9.5 million price tag and includes purchasing a transportation facility near the intersection of Edwards Avenue and Route 25, renovating a garage located on that property, tearing down the district’s existing bus barn, which was built in 1920 to house horses and has fallen into disrepair, and creating an athletic field in its place.

The plan also includes building a maintenance facility near the main campus in Riverhead.

The turf field project, which is contingent on voters approving the transportation project proposition, asks residents to approve a $1.2 million bond to turn the soccer field located next to McKillop Field where the football team plays into a new multi-sport synthetic facility.

During the public comment portion of the March 24 meeting, Calverton resident Sal Mastropaolo described it as “unfair” to make the turf field’s approval contingent on the relocation of the transportation department.

“You may have some people vote ‘no’ on the turf because they want to vote ‘no’ on the bus barn — and vice versa,” he said. “You shouldn’t have them linked together.”

Ms. Carney said during her presentation that the turf field is contingent on voters approving the bus garage’s relocation plan because the project is part of the district’s overall master plan. Thus, she said, it needs the space where the old bus barn is currently located.

In addition to the transportation and turf field propositions, voters will be asked to approve another $5 million repair reserve now that the current $5 million account established in 2011 is nearly exhausted. The repair reserve is also funded from end-of-year budget surplus and was created to supplement the ongoing $79 million districtwide construction bond project.

Following a public hearing at the March 24 meeting, the school board unanimously approved using nearly $1.8 million from the current repair reserve to pay for several projects, including updating the library and steam pipes at Roanoke Elementary School, replacing ceilings and lighting and doing other repairs at the high school and middle school; replacing lockers at the middle school and performing roof work at Pulaski Street Elementary School.

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