2011 Top Story No. 1: Voters approve $78.3 million for school upgrades

VERA CHINESE PHOTO | Riverhead school board president Ann Cotten-Degrasse (right) celebrates approval of the school bond Tuesday night.

Riverhead taxpayers served up a big fat no to a school district capital improvement plan in 2010, but a year and a half later voters approved a reduced plan for buildings and grounds upgrades in the Riverhead School District.

By a slim margin, Riverhead voters in October approved the $78.3 million plan for infrastructure upgrades at district schools, though a separate measure for a $7 million gym at the high school was rejected.

The measure will fund roof and ventilation repairs at district schools, parking lot reconfigurations, new science classrooms at the high school and kitchens at Aquebogue Elementary, Roanoke Avenue Elementary and Pulaski Street School, among other upgrades.

Under the approved $78 million plan, a Riverhead Town homeowner whose house is valued at about $280,000 will pay an extra $40.09 for the 2013-14 school year, the year residents will start paying the bond, according to a brochure provided by the district.

That amount will increase to $213.25 in 2018 and gradually decrease after 2033. The bond will be repaid in 2036.

The plan drew harsh criticism from opponents who argued the community could not support the plan in the down economy. Opponents also criticized the school district for releasing the names and phone numbers of district residents to a group lobbying for the bond’s approval.

But the district was within its rights to do so, according to State Freedom of Information Laws.

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