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New considerations for Riverhead School District voters this May

In about two months, Riverhead taxpayers will file into local elementary schools to cast votes on the proposed 2019-20 school budget. But as of last week, they will also vote on two more propositions that have been added to the ballot.  

The Riverhead Central School District board unanimously approved the additional ballot items at last Tuesday’s board meeting.

The first will seek voter permission to spend $3.9 million on a five-year bonding plan to purchase 44 new school buses. The second proposes cafeteria modifications at the high school and middle school.

The district has negotiated with five school bus manufacturers and determined that vehicle prices will hold steady for all five years, deputy superintendent Sam Schneider said at a previous board meeting. The prices are subject to change if state mandates are modified, he said.

The purchases would be funded through the sale of bonds or bond anticipation notes, the district said in a statement Monday. Those notes are paid through appropriations for debt service in each year’s district budget.

The board also approved the disposal of four obsolete 16-passenger school buses, one of which dates back to 2003, Mr. Schneider said.

Sal Mastropaolo of Calverton expressed frustration with tossing one bus built in 2011. He asked how many miles were on that bus.

Mr. Schneider said he’s unsure of its exact mileage, but could provide it to Mr. Mastropaolo in the near future. He said it’s more efficient to use newer 30-passenger vehicles to transport students.

“Particularly when you get into older-aged students, it’s really tight in there with a 16-passenger bus,” he said. “We try to get as much use out of those vehicles as we can.”

The second ballot proposition concerns necessary cafeteria modifications and asks voters to approve the use of up to $275,000 from the Cafeteria Capital Reserve Fund for that purpose.

Proposed changes at the high school cafeteria include demolishing a walk-in refrigerator in the kitchen, installing a walk-in freezer, renovating the loading dock and replacing swing doors, overhead doors, ceiling, lighting and exterior steps and rails.

Depending on its condition, Mr. Schneider said, the walk-in refrigerator could either be scrapped or renovated into a freezer.

At the middle school cafeteria, the dry goods storage room would be converted to a walk-in freezer and the kitchen entryway would be updated.

The Cafeteria Capital Reserve is funded by surplus money generated by that reserve and not by taxpayer dollars, district officials said. Since the funds are appropriated from the reserve, approval of the proposition will not affect the tax levy.

The Cafeteria Capital Reserve currently has $400,000. If the cafeteria continues to generate a surplus, the board can choose to add additional funds to the reserve this June, district officials stated.

The two ballot items were initially proposed at the March 12 school board meeting. The Board of Education will approve or reject the proposed budget at its April 16 meeting. A public hearing on the final budget will take place May 14 before the May 21 vote.

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