Featured Story

Riverhead BOE adopts $144.4M budget proposition

The Riverhead Board of Education has approved a $144.4 million budget for the 2019-20 academic year. 

Superintendent Aurelia Henriquez and assistant superintendent Christine Tona reviewed the approved budget at Tuesday’s school board meeting.

This year’s budget is divided into three main parts, Dr. Henriquez said, which closely mirror last year’s figures: Programs, which account for 76% of this year’s budget, Capital, which accounts for 15%, and Administrative, 8% of the budget.

This year’s total expenditures fall into four major categories: general support, which includes central and BOCES administration, auditing, legal assessments and more; instruction and administration, comprising extracurricular activities, special education and other instructional expenses; transportation, which pays drivers, fuel costs and more; and benefits and debt, covering Social Security, workers’ compensation, unemployment and district debt. The budget represents a 2.88% increase over last year’s budget of $141.1 million, Dr. Henriquez said.

The district’s tax levy remains below the state cap on property tax increases. Last week, the superintendent said, the district reduced the tax levy to 2.21% after Riverhead town representatives informed the district that an additional solar farm in Calverton would be operating in the 2019-20 school year. 

The new solar farm will provide a payment in lieu of taxes of $301,388 to the district, which required a recalculation of the original 2.51% tax levy rate , Dr. Henriquez said.

Based on increased student enrollment at Riverhead High School, Ms. Tona said, the district will bring in six new faculty members to teach across subjects. 

Board member Gregory Meyer thanked the administration for completing the budget and compiling it into comprehensive presentations.

Next month’s ballot will also include two new propositions for voters: the first will seek voter permission to spend $3.9 million on a five-year plan to purchase about 44 new school buses through bonds. The second ballot proposition seeks voter approval to spend $275,000 from the Cafeteria Capital Reserve Fund to tackle modifications at the high and middle school cafeterias.

At the meeting, board president Susan Koukounas noted that funds for the cafeteria renovations would not impact taxpayers because the project is funded through the Cafeteria Capital Reserve Fund. 

At the high school cafeteria, the proposition would demolish a walk-in refrigerator; install a walk-in freezer; renovate the loading dock, replace swing doors, overhead doors, ceiling and lighting; and replace exterior steps and rails.

Board members Therese Zuhoski and Laurie Downs were not present at the meeting. 

The district will hold a public hearing on the proposed budget Tuesday, May 14, at the high school. Aquebogue, Phillips Avenue, Riley Avenue and Roanoke Avenue elementary schools will be open for budget voting May 21 from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.

WorldStrides Competition

Members of the school jazz ensemble filled the Riverhead High School auditorium with instruments Tuesday night to perform a tune for school board members following their performance at the WorldStrides Competition. The performance was conducted by music teacher Crystal Crespo.

Dr. Henriquez acknowledged the recent accomplishments of the jazz and wind ensembles and chamber orchestra and choir, which attended the WorldStrides OnStage New York Heritage Festival in New York City March 22 and 23. The competitive on-stage music festival welcomes high school student bands from across the country. Eighty-three RHS students were guided by music teachers Marisa Macchio, Peter Falango, Dena Tishim and Ms. Crespo. 

Lauren Lewonka, district director of fine arts, said the group has participated in the competition for the past four years. After competing against other ensembles before a panel of judges, they receive feedback and awards based on their performance. 

The jazz ensemble earned a first-place silver award. The chamber orchestra received a gold award and an adjudicator’s award for an overall score of 92 points or higher. The chamber choir brought home a silver award, and the wind ensemble received a gold rating, an adjudicator’s award and an outstanding band group award, Ms. Macchio said, an award recognizing the group as one of the best at the competition.

Individual students received awards for their performances, too — chamber orchestra member Sarah Anne Fried and vocalist Sarah Jordan garnered Maestro awards for excellence in performance, while choral member Lily Kutner was presented with an Ovation award for overall excellence among her peers. 

“As a Riverhead music educator, I was very proud to see these students perform,” Ms. Macchio said. “The musicality, the talent, the maturity, was so impressive, and made me very proud.” 

[email protected]