05/20/13 5:00pm
JENNIFER GUSTAVSON  FILE PHOTO

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON FILE PHOTO

The Shoreham-Wading River School District budget vote will take place between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. in the high school gymnasium.

RESERVES TO STAVE OFF PROGRAM CUTS

Residents in the Shoreham-Wading River School District will vote Tuesday on a $66.1 million proposed school budget for 2013-14 that represents a spending increase of roughly 5.5 percent over this year’s plan. The district’s estimated tax levy increase is 2.29 percent, the maximum allowable under the law.

Superintendent Steven Cohen said his proposed budget will preserve student programs, district services, class sizes and staffing levels. The tentative spending plan also allocates funding for additional security staff and equipment, such as cameras, fencing and security vestibules.

RIVERHEAD VOTERS’ GUIDE

As in Riverhead, the district learned during the budget process that it would receive additional state aid for the 2013-14 school year.

The district will also use “one-shot” revenues to offset a tax levy spike, including $4 million from its fund balance, $1.5 million of prior year state aid and nearly $227,100 from the employee retirement system reserve, Mr. Cohen has said.

The majority of next year’s expenditures will result from a 5.2 percent increase in salaries, up $1.6 million, and a 13 percent increase in benefits, up over $2.2 million. The total cost of salaries, Mr. Cohen projected, is $32.3 million — or 49 percent of his proposed budget. Benefits account for nearly $18 million, about 27 percent of the budget.

While next year’s proposed budget keeps school programs intact, school officials have said it will be difficult in future years to find ways to trim the budget to fit under the tax levy cap, largely because of increases in teacher salaries and benefits that will outstrip the pace of the cuts.

If the spending plan fails Tuesday, Mr. Cohen said the district will have to cut middle and high school clubs, middle school athletics, three clerical positions and one teacher to cut $1.1 million for a contingency budget.

In addition to voting on the budget, residents will be asked Tuesday to approve a High School Facility Improvements proposition that will allow the district to use about $4.98 million from its Tax Reduction Reserve Fund, commonly referred to as “prior year state aid,” to pay for building improvements. Although the district has received its prior year state aid, it must receive voter authorization before using the funds to pay for the slated capital improvements.

School officials are proposing to use the monies to fix code violations the state education department has identified at the high school, including dead-end hallways, classroom egress issues and other areas in the building that aren’t in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The district also plans to replace a section of leaking roof above the high school music room and reconfigure outdated science labs.

jennifer@timesreview.com

TWO TO  TAKE TWO OPEN BOARD SEATS

Two vacant and uncontested seats on the Shoreham-Wading River Board of Education will be filled May 21. Richard Pluschau will serve a second term as the school board’s vice president and newcomer Sean Beran will begin his first term as a trustee.

Sean Beran

Sean Beran

Richard Pluschau

Richard Pluschau

Mr. Pluschau, 46, has lived in the district since 2005 and is vice president of enterprise data management at AIG. Mr. Pluschau did not return a request for an interview.

Mr. Beran, 41, is a Suffolk County police sergeant who grew up in East Islip and has lived in Wading River for the past 12 years with his wife, Wendy. He describes himself as a “pro student and teacher candidate” who is also sensitive to the needs of taxpayers.

“We must find a way to be fair to everyone while still providing and ensuring academic excellence in our classrooms,” he said. “This is the biggest challenge we face as a community and district.”

Mr. Beran believes his 18-year career in law enforcement will provide a distinct advantage to his insights as a board trustee, especially in the areas of infrastructure and school security.

with Rachel Young

 

03/26/13 2:00pm
03/26/2013 2:00 PM
TIMES/REVIEW FILE PHOTO | North Shore Public Library's budget vote is Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO | North Shore Public Library’s budget vote is next Tuesday.

The North Shore Public Library in Shoreham will ask voters next Tuesday to approve its proposed $3.68 million spending plan carrying a 1.9 percent increase to the tax levy.

Library director Laura Hawrey said by prioritizing projects and applying reserves such as fund balance, the budget fit under the state mandated 2 percent cap. The tax levy — the amount of cash the library collects from taxpayers — is expected to increase to $3.46 million.

“We spent a lot of time going over the budget and we’re very proud we’ve had minimal spending increases,” she said.

Ms. Hawrey said the tax hike is the result of the library increasing programs, online resources and its E-books service. The changes are needed in order to meet the demands of residents, she said.

During the 2011-12 fiscal year, the library raised the tax levy for the first time in four years. If approved next week, Ms. Hawrey said the proposed budget will cost approximately $7 per year more than last year for the average household.

Registered voters in the Shoreham-Wading River and Rocky Point school districts can vote in the North Shore Public Library budget vote from 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Scroll down to read the North Shore Public Library’s budget proposal.

North Shore Public Library 2013-14 budget proposal

11/20/12 6:50pm
11/20/2012 6:50 PM

The Riverhead Town Board has added exactly $103,730 in spending to the 2013 town budget originally proposed by Supervisor Sean Walter, according to a resolution the board voted to approve.

The now-adopted budget adds back a personnel director that the supervisor had proposed to cut, but doesn’t add back a youth bureau director.

The additional spending in the final 2013 budget was taken from fund balance, and thus, will not change the ‘town wide” tax levy or tax rate numbers from the supervisor’s budget, which increased both numbers by 2.92 percent.

Spending increased from 2.6 percent to 2.8 percent over the 2012 budget with the added $103,730, which brought the final number to just over $53 million.

In a 3-2 vote, board members rejected a series of budget cuts and revenue increases that would have allowed the town to fund the youth bureau director position for half a year, beginning in July.

The so-called town wide budget refers to the three funds — general, highway, and street lighting — paid by all town residents. Overall, the town spends more than $89 million when water and sewer districts, ambulance, garbage collection and other special districts are included.

Along the way at Tuesday night’s meeting, Councilwoman Jodi Giglio became involved in heated discussions with both Anthony Coates, a political advisor to Mr. Walter who has announced his intentions to run for Town Board next year, and with Matt Hattorff, the president of the town employees union, over budget issues.

Check back at riverheadnewsreview.com for more detailed information on the final budget.

News-Review reporter Tim Gannon reported live from the the meeting.

Click below to see what transpired:

 

Riverhead Town Board agenda 11-20-2012

11/15/12 11:40pm
11/15/2012 11:40 PM
Riverhead Town Board

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Supervisor Sean Walter read from the Holy Bible during Thursday’s work session, following last week’s contentious Town Board meeting.

The Riverhead Town Board discussed modifications to its 2013 proposed town budget Thursday’s public work session.

Councilman James Wooten kicked off the meeting by issuing a public apology for the way the board fired its coordinator, Linda Hulse, at last Wednesday’s meeting.

Mr. Wooten said the board should respect one another and work with one another, adding that the way the board majority fired Linda Hulse was unprofessional and he’s sorry.

“Nobody deserved that,” he said.

Aside from budget talks (check back later for story), the board passed a resolution hiring Tracey Densieski as the new Town Board coordinator. She’s the wife of Joe Densieski, who was a Republican candidate for highway superintendent in 2009.

That vote passed 4-1, with Mr. Walter opposed.

“I told [Ms. Densieski],” Mr. Walter said in an interview. “Had the board gone through the regular [hiring/firing] process, I would have voted for you.

“Linda’s my friend; they shouldn’t have fired here,” he added.

The town also approved a license agreement with Insurance Auto Auctions Auto Corps allowing the company to use unused runways at the Calverton Enterprise Park to store cars damaged in Hurricane Sandy until insurance companies can determine if they are salvageable.

That measure passed unanimously, and looks to fetch just under $1 million for the town in six months.

The company will have the option to re-up the lease if the space is still needed after six months.

News-Review reporter Tim Gannon blogged live from the meetings. Click below to get a play-by-play of what happened.

 

 

 

 

Riverhead Town Board work session agenda 11-15-2012

11/07/12 10:00am
11/07/2012 10:00 AM

The Riverhead Town Board will hold public hearings on the 2013 town budget at its 2 p.m. meeting in Town Hall.

News-Review reporter Tim Gannon will be blogging live once the meeting starts.

There will also be hearings on McGann-Mercy High School’s proposal to turn an old pond into a softball field, and on a town proposal to spend up to $900,000 to create a new open space preserve along Horton Avenue.

Click below to follow along, and scroll below the live blog box to see at meeting agenda.

 

 

Riverhead Town Board 11-07-2012

09/25/12 8:00am
09/25/2012 8:00 AM

TIM GANNON FILE PHOTO | Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter is set to unveil budget plan

Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter is planning to unveil his town spending plan Friday for 2013.

He will be doing so at a special budget message  scheduled for 10 a.m. in Riverhead Town Hall at 200 Howell Avenue.

Mr. Walter told the News-Review last month that the town is looking at a $2.6 million “structural deficit” for next year, if no measures are taken to reduce spending and increase revenues.

Check back at riverheadnewsreview.com at that time Friday to see reporter Tim Gannon’s live blog coverage from the event.

08/30/12 11:16am
08/30/2012 11:16 AM
NEWS-REVIEW FILE PHOTO | Debt service on Riverhead Town's failed reclamation project is costing taxpayers $450,000 next year in debt payments.

NEWS-REVIEW FILE PHOTO | Debt service on Riverhead Town’s failed reclamation project is costing taxpayers $450,000 next year in debt payments.

The Riverhead Town Board is set to start hammering out a spending plan for 2013.

And that process will once again start off with a $2.6 million “structural deficit,” according to Supervisor Sean Walter, who is required to present a tentative town budget for 2013 by the end of September.

As with previous years, the deficit stems not from overspending the current budget, but with the fact that this year’s budget uses $2.6 million in surplus funds to lower taxes.

But Mr. Walter, who had been critical of previous administrations for their use of surplus funds to lower taxes, said in an interview that he will likely have to apply another $2.6 million in surplus, also called fund balance, to lower taxes in the 2013 budget.

The town must pay about $450,000 in landfill debt next year.

The debt from the landfill will heavily impact the next few town budgets, he said.

The town ran into cost overruns at its town landfill when it tried to do a landfill “reclamation” while closing the landfill, instead of the customary capping of the landfill. The reclamation, which involves excavating garbage and recyclable material from the pit and either selling them or taking them elsewhere, ended up costing way more than the town had anticipated.

Another big increase in the upcoming budget is from employee salary increases that are mandated as a result of already signed contracts with employee unions, Mr. Walter said.

That number adds about $500,000 more to the budget, he said.

“Between the salary increases and the landfill debt, you’ve got a million dollar increase,” Mr. Walter said.

Also, department heads’ requests for funding in the 2013 budget, if approved, would total another $500,000, he added.

The town allocated $2.6 million in surplus to this year’s budget and $2.6 million to the 2011 budget, Mr. Walter said. The town only spent about $2 million of that amount in 2011 and Mr. Walter’s hoping the town won’t spend the entire amount this year.

In the 2010 budget, which was adopted before Mr. Walter took office, the town allocated $4.7 million in fund balance to lower taxes.

The 2009 budget used $2 million in surplus funds to keep taxes from spiking.

The town began 2012 with about $11 million left in fund balance — or reserves — and that number will be reduced by however much the town spends of the $2.6 million this year, Mr. Walter said.

In addition to the spending issues, the town also must comply with the state’s 2-percent tax cap, which applies to the tax levy increase.

The landfill debt must be paid, so any cuts will have to come from other areas, Mr. Walter said.

He added that it’s too early to know if he will propose eliminating some town jobs.

An audit completed earlier this year found about $360,000 in “trust and agency accounts” that were left over from things like forfeited bonds over a 30-year period and Mr. Walter said he plans to use about $250,000 of that money on engineering to turn the old armory building on Route 58 into a new police headquarters and justice court.

There’s also another $493,000 the audit discovered in foundation permit accounts that the town is still auditing to determine if it can be claimed by the town.

If that money can be claimed, the supervisor wants to use it to update the town’s antiquated computer system, which is about 30 years old.

As for revenues, the supervisor expects the mortgage recording tax revenue, which is one of the bigger revenue items the town gets, to increase about $100,000, bringing the total to about $1 million. Meaning, the amount of those revenues the Town Board can apply to the 2013 budget will be $100,000 more than the amount the board applied to the 2012 budget.

That number is affected by the real estate market. The town got about $2 million in mortgage tax revenues in 2004, Mr. Walter said.

tgannon@timesreview.com

Read more in the Sept. 6 edition of the News-Review.

The Riverhead News-Review is available on newsstands and by clicking for the E-Paper.

NEWS-REVIEW FILE PHOTO | Riverhead Town Board members (from left) Jim Wooten, John Dunleavy, Supervisor Sean Walter, Jodi Giglio and George Gabrielsen.