Riverhead school supe ‘not expecting much’ in restored aid

VERA CHINESE PHOTO | Riverhead school board president Ann Cotten-Degrasse and board member Amelia Lantz listen to superintendent Nancy Carney present the 2011-12 budget for a fourth time.

New York State schools will receive $272 million more in state aid for 2011-12 than originally thought, but how that will affect taxes for Riverhead residents is still unknown, school officials said this week.

Riverhead School District Superintendent Nancy Carney declined to speculate this week on how that additional money, if Riverhead receives any of it, would effect the tax levy or spending under the $110.3 million budget proposed for 2011-12.

“We’re not expecting it to be much,” Ms. Carney said Tuesday during a sparsely attended school board meeting at Aquebogue Elementary School.

Governor Andrew Cuomo originally proposed cutting $2.9 million, or 16 percent, from Riverhead schools as part of an effort to close a $10 billion budget gap.

Ms. Carney has been presenting the school budget at district elementary schools this month and so far has received virtually no response to the spending plan — which eliminates 38 full-time positions, including 15 teachers — from the public.

Spending under the budget would increase by only about 2 percent from the previous year but the tax levy — the amount of cash the district collects from taxpayers — would rise 5.7 percent for 2011-12, which is $5.2 million. That increase is largely due to the cut in state aid.

“I can’t believe there are no parents [here],” community member and school watchdog Laurie Downs said during Tuesday’s meeting.

“This either means we’re doing an exceptional job or we’re boring you to death,” added school board president Ann Cotten-Degrasse.

In other news, the board voted to make a slight change in the wording of the only proposition that will be on the ballot when voters go to the polls May 17.

The proposition, if approved by voters, would allow the school district to allot $3 million of unreserved funds to a repair fund. That money could be used by the district for emergency repairs at its buildings. A public hearing is necessary for expenditures, except in emergencies, Ms. Carney said.

The repair fund was created following a vote at the March 8 board meeting.

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