Riverhead budget would raise tax levy by 3.94%

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04/15/2015 10:08 AM |
Riverhead Superintendent Nancy Carney speaks at Tuesday's budget presentation. (Credit: Jen Nuzzo)

Riverhead Superintendent Nancy Carney speaks at Tuesday’s budget presentation. (Credit: Jen Nuzzo)

The Riverhead school board has adopted a $125.9 million budget that would increase spending by 3.81 percent over the current year.

The proposed 2015-16 budget also includes an estimated 3.94 percent hike, or nearly $3.6 million, to the tax levy. 

Ms. Carney has said the increase is needed due to added costs in instruction, security and debt service, among other expenses.

Under the state-mandated tax cap, the district could present a budget carrying a 4.58 percent increase in the tax levy without needing 60 percent voter approval in May. Instead, its proposed increase in the levy is about $594,870 below the allowable amount, according to Superintendent Nancy Carney’s presentation at Tuesday’s school board meeting.

At the meeting, Ms. Carney explained the allowable amount is over 2 percent because the state exempts expenses like capital improvement projects from the tax cap calculation.

As for additional expenses, a middle school guidance counselor and a second assistant director at pupil personnel services has been added to next year’s spending plan, due to an increase in state aid. The total cost for the two positions is about $310,000, which includes salaries and benefits. Both positions had existed in the district, but were eliminated several years ago due to budget cuts, she said.

Following the superintendent’s presentation, the school board unanimously approved the budget without discussion. School board president Greg Meyer and trustee Tom Carson were absent.

Not included in the proposed spending plan is the restoration of a ninth period at the high school.

During a school board meeting in February, students, teachers and parents demanded the high school return to a nine-period day to help restore classes that have been dropped or clubs they say are dwindling.

On Tuesday, Ms. Carney said high school administrators are meeting with individual students to make sure they’re able to take all of the courses they’re interesting in taking.

The district is also looking into “flexible scheduling,” which Ms. Carney described as “almost like a ninth period” at the end of the school day. There’s also more electives planned for next year, she added.

Ms. Carney said that while about 100 students would prefer to have nine periods a day, the high school’s administration believes the new schedule is working well with an eight-period day.

“We appreciate the advocacy of our students, which is what we try to teach our students to do,” she said. “Obviously, when you have differences in opinion, you try to come up with things that work in different situations, which is what the high school is trying to do.”

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