Education

Riverhead voters reject proposed $147 million spending plan

Voters in the Riverhead Central School District rejected the proposed 2020-21 budget by 361 votes as the number of ballots submitted surged under the new absentee ballot system.

Nearly four months after voters widely rejected a proposed $97 million bond, the vote for the regular budget took a similar path.

There were 3,173 no votes compared to 2,847 yes votes. The tally was finalized just before 2:30 p.m. Wednesday. The proposed budget was a 1.87% increase over the current budget.

“It’s really disheartening,” Superintendent Aurelia Henriquez said. “We have to now come together and come up with a plan for moving forward.”

It’s the first time the Riverhead budget has failed since 2006 when 91 votes was the difference.

Chris Dorr, from left, Therese Zuhoski and Virginia Healy secured the three open spots on the Riverhead Board of Education. (Credit: Tara Smith)

Incumbent Therese Zuhoski (2,479) had the highest total of votes among 10 candidates to win one of the three available seats for the Board of Education. Incumbent Chris Dorr also won reelection with 1,954 votes and Virginia Healy won the final seat with 1,877 votes.

A second proposition on the ballot was approved by a wide margin to authorize spending $469,470 from the district’s Cafeteria Capital Reserve Fund to replace serving lines at the high school, middle school and Pulaski Street Elementary School cafeterias, as well as install a walk-in freezer and improve the serving area at Pulaski. There were 3,969 yes votes and 2,050 no votes.

Riverhead officials spent more nearly nine hours between Tuesday evening and Wednesday counting the absentee ballots.

As of 2 p.m. Wednesday, every budget had passed in Suffolk County, according to Newsday, although results for several other large districts were still outstanding. Uniondale in Nassau County reported a failed budget.