Riverhead School District

Riverhead school district to receive higher than expected total in state aid

Riverhead Central School District will receive 18% more state aid than expected, according to Faith Caglianone, the acting assistant superintendent for finance and operations.

“We did receive a significant state aid increase in the estimate for the executive budget,” Ms. Caglianone said at last Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting. The district is expecting to get $8.4 million based on the preliminary state budget figures, she said. 

According to Newsday, $4 billion in state aid is headed toward Long Island schools. The funding varies widely from district to district based on a “foundation aid” formula. The formula considers schools with a high number of students who live in poverty or face other disadvantages and was created in 2007.

The fight for foundation aid has been an ongoing theme in Riverhead as school officials have said in recent years that the district had not been receiving its fair share. There was a reversal in fortune last year when the school received a windfall of funding that included a big bump in foundation aid.

Ms. Caglianone and district superintendent Dr. Augustine Tornatore said the district has begun the budget process, which typically begins in November and runs through April when the board adopts the budget to then go before the voters in May.

“Ms. Caglianone and I and our members of cabinet have been meeting with each one of our administrators as we are taking a look at what their needs and wants are for their respective areas,” Mr. Tornatore said.

State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli announced on Jan. 12 that the property tax levy for school districts will be capped at 2%, an increase from 1.23% last year. To override the cap, a district must receive 60% voter approval of their budget. The tax cap was first implemented in 2012.

“One of the first priorities this year expressed to me from Dr. Tornatore was to try to present a budget that is below the tax cap,” Ms. Caglianone said. “Our goal is to develop a budget with minimal tax impact while maintaining and improving our district programs and our facilities.”

The boost in state funding last year allowed the district to approve a budget that did not include an increase on taxpayers. Voters approved the budget last May, after the prior year’s budget had failed twice, leading to widespread cuts in sports and other areas.

Ms. Caglianone was hired in November on an “as needed basis” effective Dec. 1 through June 30, 2022. Sam Schneider, the assistant superintendent for finance and operations, remains out on administrative leave pending an investigation that is being conducted by a special counsel that is investigation an allegation.

The district administrators will begin to unveil components of the 2022-23 budget at upcoming BOE meetings.

Seeking additional space

The district is looking for additional space for the high school, according to Mr. Tornatore.

The district plans on moving both the pupil personnel services office and the district office in order to make room for eight more classrooms, he said. 

In order to make room for those additional eight classes, the PPS office would move to the district office, Mr. Tornatore said. 

“This is certainly something that we’re looking into right now because again we do understand that there are concerns regarding classroom space and we want to be able to accommodate our high school students so that they have more availability to them, in addition to the implementation of the nine-period day,” he said.

During last Tuesday’s meeting, the board adopted over 30 new elective courses that had been proposed during the Jan. 11 BOE meeting.

Security upgrade project

The BOE will be presented with a security upgrade project next month by Ms. Caglianone.

“During this current budget process, we have spent considerable time discussing the health and safety and building needs of the district,” Ms. Caglianone said. “It will involve cameras, upgrading the software behind our cameras and card access for all the entrances throughout the buildings.”