Riverhead administrators outlined the first phase of the 2022-23 budget at Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting and discussed plans to spend over $1.1 million from a repair reserve fund for various infrastructure projects.
Faith Caglianone, the acting superintendent for finance and operations, described the budget as fiscally conservative and said the goal is to keep the budget under the 2% tax levy set by the state. The district did not have any increase to the tax levy in the current year budget, which stayed at about $104 million from 2020-21 and 2019-20. The lax levy is the amount of money for the budget raised through taxes. Voters had rejected the 2020-21 budget, forcing the district into a contingency budget.
“One of the main priorities for the 2022-2023 budget, as [superintendent] Dr. [Augustine] Tornatore was saying, a fiscally responsible budget that has as low of a tax levy as possible,” Ms. Caglianone said.
At last month’s BOE meeting, Ms. Caglianone and Mr. Tornatore said the district will be receiving more than expected in state aid, with an expected 18% increase which translates to $8.4 million over the current year.
A final number won’t be known until the state budget is finalized and adopted by the State Legislature.
Ms. Caglianone discussed budget items related to general support items, which included subsets of Board of Education, central administration, insurance and BOCES administration.
The largest increase was under the central administration, auditing, and legal budget category where there would be a $400,000, or 17.1%, increase in expenditures.
Ms. Caglianone said the increase would cover implementing a new human resources software system, an upgrade of the district’s financial software and adding additional clerical staff in both the personnel and business offices.
The debt service portion of the budget would see a decrease of 3.34%, according to the presentation.
Ms. Caglianone said the decrease is due to the final payment of a five-year bond for busses and turf field debts that will end this school year.
“The final payment was in ’21-’22 so we do have a little bit of debt service falling off our books,” Ms. Caglianone said.
She also added that the district is currently renegotiating the refund of 2014-2015 bonds, which could potentially save the district more money than projected in the presentation.
The March 8 BOE meeting will focus on the budget related to transportation, facilities, regular school day and benefits. The March 22 meeting will focus on the budget related to special education, pupil personnel services, other instructional items and revenue.
The Board of Education held a public hearing on a plan to spend just over $1.1 million from a 2017 repair reserve. The board unanimously approved adopting the repair reserve expenditures following the public hearing.
Ms. Caglianone and Ryan Jacobellis, the assistant plant facilities administrator, discussed the various items the money would be used for.
The repair reserve was approved by voters in May 2017 to fund up to $7.5 million in repair work in the district, according to the presentation.
As of Jan. 27, just over $2.7 million remains in the reserve.
A total of 10 projects were proposed. The most expensive project, at $206,000, is to repair the student bathrooms in the first-grade hallway at Riley Avenue Elementary School.
According to the presentation, the work there would include a new floor and wall tile as well as partitions, toilets, sinks, plumbing fixtures, doors and handdryers. They would also correct plumbing issues inside the walls.
Bathrooms at Pulaski, student bathrooms by the rear wing at Phillips Avenue and the bathrooms at the high school by the gymnasium were also included. The most expensive of those three were the bathrooms at Pulaski, which Mr. Jacobellis said had not been renovated since the 1950’s. It would cost $175,500.
Other projects included: Replacing the air handlers at the middle school gym, renovating the main office at Pulaski Street, replacing the video intercoms and access system through the district and replacing the settling and cracked sidewalk on the north side of Aquebogue Elementary School.
Replacing the lights at the auditorium was also a proposed project. The new lighting would complement the stage lighting upgrade done last year, according to the presentation and would be more energy efficient. It would cost $130,000.
The cheapest of all the projects proposed was replacing the scoreboards at the high school gymnasium, which would cost $25,000.
There were three online public comments during the hearing which were questions that were addressed either by the presentation, Mr. Jacobellis or board vice president Matthew Wallace.
All five board members present approved the measure to adopt the 2017 Repair Reserves funds. Board President Laurie Downs and board member Therese Zuhoski were both absent.