Riverhead School District taxpayers will vote on a nearly $111.8 million budget for the 2012-13 school year that keeps the district’s spending plan under the state-mandated tax cap by cutting $3.2 million from what would otherwise be a rollover budget from this school year.
Check back on riverheadnewsreview.com for live coverage once the polls close at 9 p.m.
If approved, the budget ensures the tax levy — the total money collected from taxpayers — would increase by 1.73 percent from last year’s budget. The state tax cap legislation wasn’t in effect when the 2011-12 budget was adopted.
The largest reduction to the budget was a cut of about $1.9 million after 21 employees, including 12 teachers and nine teaching assistants, were given pink slips in mid-February, effective this June.
Among those cuts were two elementary school teachers, two private special education teachers, one middle school English teacher, one middle school guidance counselor, one technology teacher, one high school science teacher, one high school math teacher, one middle school health teacher, and one high school home and careers teacher.
Riverhead Superintendent Nancy Carney later said an unexpected recent increase in state aid allows the district to retain three of those employees, though it was not immediately known which jobs would be saved.
No in-school programs would be totally cut under the plan, but the budget includes reductions of equipment, co- and extra-curricular activities at the high school and middle school, and will eliminate after-school programs at all elementary schools.
Some programs, such as health classes, will be offered less often and district departments across the board will have to work with smaller budgets.
Several of the sports teams, such as the JV and varsity golf teams, will be combined into one team playing a varsity schedule.
Adult education classes in the district, currently taught at Riverhead High School, will be eliminated.
The budget also proposes combining the Riverhead Middle School and Pulaski Street School bus runs to save about $300,000.
Two Riverhead school district residents are running unopposed for two open school board seats this year.
Tom Carson of Riverhead is seeking his first term.
The owner of a the Country Farm Kitchen on West Main Street, the Setauket native has lived in the district for 22 years and has twin 10-year-old daughters in the school district.
Mr. Carson says he would use his experience as a businessman and entrepreneur to help the district with financial decisions.
“I’ve probably worn every hat [during my career],” he said. “If I can change one thing on the board, I’ll have done a good job.”
Susan Koukounas of Aquebogue is also seeking her first term on the board.
Ms. Koukounas is a math professor at Suffolk County Community College, and was a PTO president and member of the school bond committee last year. She is also a founding member of the Riverhead WAVE foundation, a nonprofit group that seeks to raise money to support school programs.
She has lived in the district for 10 years and has two children in the district.
Ms. Koukounas said finding new avenues for funding should be a focus of the school board, adding that her experience will help the board make difficult decisions.
“I’m an educator myself, and I understand all the constraints being put on the classroom,” she said.
Polls will open at 6 a.m. at four locations across Riverhead Town today and close at 9 p.m. These are the same locations used during the school bond vote last year. Taxpayers can also visit the Riverhead Central School District website at riverhead.net, or call the district offices at 631-369-4724 to learn where their polling place is.
The district has mailed postcards to residents informing them of their polling locations.