Featured Story

Riverhead school officials ask town to recalculate sewer fees

Riverhead Central School District stands to save an estimated $30,000 to $50,000 per year if the town grants its request for a change in how its sewer charges are calculated. 

At a preliminary 2018-19 budget presentation Tuesday night, deputy superintendent Sam Schneider reported that the school district’s sewer rents have nearly doubled since irrigation systems for the athletic fields were installed in 2012.

Last year, it racked up $131,108 in sewer rent, and costs for this year are expected to total nearly $160,000. By contrast, he said, the bill for the 2012-13 school year was $97,846.

The town’s current formula for calculating sewer rent is based on the assumption that the more water is pumped, the more water reaches the treatment plant — which Mr. Schneider said is not the case for the Riverhead school district. He contends that the bulk of the district’s water usage is due to irrigation and the it ends up paying sewer charges for water that never reaches the sewage treatment plant.

The district is looking for the same deal the town has with Bishop McGann-Mercy High School. The Catholic high school’s sewer charges are calculated based on “assumed water usage of four times the winter quarter usage,” Mr. Schneider said. He said this is a more accurate representation of the amount of water that will end up in the plant.

“The school district has sent a letter to the Town Board, and the Board of Education has seen this letter,” Mr. Schneider said. “We are asking the Town Board to grant us the same provision that [it] gave McGann-Mercy High School on July 23, 1991.”

He said a similar arrangement could save the district thousands of dollars annually, which could be allocated elsewhere as the budget for the next school year is developed.

General support costs for the 2018-19 school year are expected to rise 4.98 percent, to nearly $4.1 million, he said.

The school district has set a goal of staying within the tax levy cap imposed by state law, when allowable exemptions, such as capital costs, are taken into account.

But Mr. Schneider noted that, after exemptions, the projected cap on the district’s tax levy increase falls below 2 percent for 2018-19 thanks to debt reduction.

This year, the district is retiring debt service from 1999, reducing its overall debt by 11.68 percent to $8.3 million for the 2018-19 school year.

“Because we’re retiring that debt you can see this year’s capital tax levy is $6.1 million,” he said. “Next year’s capital tax levy is $4.5 million. Because of that reduction it offsets our ability to increase the tax levy limit,” he said.

Additional school district budget presentations are set for Feb. 27, March 13 and March 27, each focusing on a different part of the budget.

The budget is expected to be adopted April 18. A public vote and Board of Education election are slated for May 15 from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Photo caption: Deputy superintendent Sam Schneider presenting parts of the projected 2018-19 budget at Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting. (Credit: Nicole Smith) 

[email protected]

Correction: The school district’s sewer rents have nearly doubled since irrigation systems for the athletic fields were installed in 2012, not more than doubled as initially reported.