Featured Story

Riverhead BOE will discuss bringing back sports, plays and music after Sept. 16

The Riverhead Board of Education has agreed to formally discuss the feasibility of using reserve funds for sports, clubs and music performances while it operates on a contingent budget in 2020-21.

The discussion would take place after Sept. 16, when the district’s outside auditors are expected to make a presentation to its audit committee. 

Board member Chris Dorr has been leading the charge to dip into reserves to fund the programs, which have been estimated to cost about $1.2 million.

“I believe it’s in our best interest, and in the best interest of our students and our parents to dip into the reserves and fund at least varsity levels sports, music and clubs in high school,” Mr. Dorr said. “We are charged with educating the whole student, the whole child and that includes what they can do in the chamber orchestra or a play or on the sports field.”

Attorney Chris Venator and auditor Jill Sanders were asked at Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting to identify what could and couldn’t be spent under a contingency budget, and Mr. Venator specifically listed sports as something the district could fund. 

Ms. Sanders said there are some reserve funds that can only be used for certain items, but there are also unassigned fund balances that can be used for many purposes.  

The board cut the programs after it was tasked with trimming $2.3 million from the originally proposed $147.1 million spending plan after the budget failed for a second time by just 59 votes in July.

School board member Sue Koukounas said she’s concerned with looming cuts to state aid that are expected to be about 20% this year.

“If we start spending our reserve funds and we have at least a 20% decrease in state aid, how will that affect how we can stay afloat for next years’ budget?” she asked.

Board member Matt Wallace pointed out that the state won’t allow sports to practice until Sept. 21. Combined with Ms. Sanders’ point that an audit presentation is set for Sept. 16 led the board to vote on holding the discussion after that date.

The board voted 5-2 to put off the discussion until after Sept. 16 with Mr. Dorr and board member Therese Zuhoski casting the opposing votes.