Keep a good thing going with Riverhead schools

The Riverhead School District’s proposed budget for 2010-2011, which calls for a spending increase of 1.99 percent, goes to the voters on Tuesday, May 18.

The proposed increase, which is extremely low by historic standards, was possible because of teacher contract givebacks and a school board that has planned well in the midst of a financial crisis. Consider the cuts totalling approximately $1.5 million in state aid that Riverhead schools are facing, and the budget proposal becomes even more impressive.

This all didn’t happen overnight, or without sacrifice.

The school board has made a steady stream of cuts that included 23 excessed positions at the end of last year. Twenty people are taking retirement packages this year, and the board is expected to replace only 15 of them. Fewer positions, coupled with newer teachers with lower salaries, will mean significant reductions in staffing costs.

Meanwhile, our students’ test scores have been on the rise, so it appears their educations are not being undermined.

The budget increase is about half of what taxpayers could face under a state-mandated maximum contingency budget and is also below the reported Long Island average of about 3.5 percent.

We urge voters to approve the proposed budget. We’ve also been impressed with the current school board and think there’s no reason to fire the incumbents, Christine Prete and Mary-Ellen Harkin.