Riverhead school board adopts budget; vote set for May 15

NEWS-REVIEW FILE PHOTO | Riverhead Middle School.

The Riverhead school board adopted a nearly $111.8 million budget for the 2012-13 school year, setting the budget up for a public vote next month.
The board voted unanimously to approve the budget, which keeps the district beneath the state-mandated tax levy cap, which did not apply to last year’s $109.6 million budget.

A state law passed last year limits year-to-year increases in the tax levy — the total amount the district can collect from taxpayers — at 2 percent. However, the Riverhead district’s tax levy increase for the 2012-13 school year was capped at a 1.73 percent due to several factors, such as lack of new construction in the district. This reduced cap means the district had to cut $3.2 million from its budget proposal.

The largest reduction was a cut of $1.9 million that was made after the district announced 21 employees, including 12 teachers and nine teaching assistants, would be laid off effective this June. Superintendent Nancy Carney later said an unexpected recent increase in state aid allows the district to retain at least two of those employees.

Ms. Carney said the district will look at enrollment figures and decide which employees will be spared pink slips within the coming weeks.

No in-school programs will be totally cut, Ms. Carney said, but some programs will be offered less often and departments across the board will have to work with smaller budgets.

Adult education classes in the district will be eliminated and school athletics and extracurricular activities will face equipment and staff cuts. The budget also proposes combining the Riverhead Middle School and Pulaski Street School bus runs to save about $300,000.

However, school board president Ann Cotten-DeGrasse said the district can still tweak the budget before the vote this May.

“There could be some changes between now and then, as long as we stay within the $111 million,” she said.

The board will present the budget to the public at a May 8 public hearing. Voting on the 2012-13 school year budget will take place Tuesday, May 15.

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