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Riverhead school officials to discuss proposed budget in-person Monday and virtually Thursday

Officials at the Riverhead Central School District will outline the 2022-23 adopted budget Monday for residents at Riverhead Middle School. A virtual presentation will also be held Thursday via Zoom.

Superintendent Augustine Tornatore and Faith Caglianone, the interim assistant superintendent for finance and operation, will discuss the $169.7 million budget, which will raise the tax levy by 1%. The in-person presentation will start at 6:30 p.m. in the middle school library.

An additional presentation will be held at 3:30 p.m. Thursday via Zoom. It can be accessed by clicking here. The passcode is: budgetinfo. The virtual meeting will be recorded and uploaded to the district website as well and will have a version translated to Spanish.

“If there are any questions, certainly we will be available to answer any questions,” Mr. Toranatore said at Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting.

The budget includes the implementation of a nine-period school day at the middle and high schools, eight additional classrooms at the high school that would be housed in the current Pupil Personnel Services portables and the hiring of a STEM director who would help implement ‘maker spaces’ in all seven school buildings. It would also allow the district to continue working on social-emotional learning programs and restorative practices in school, according to Mr. Tornatore.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the board heard comments from several residents related to the budget. In a written comment, Jen Smith of Flanders asked how the district can better explain to residents the benefits included in the proposed budget when some residents say they will continue to vote down the budget due to administrative issues.

“There’s nothing more that we can say to change anybody’s mind,” said board president Laurie Downs. “Everything is out there. We’re going to do these other two presentations. People really have to look into this line by line.”

Voters rejected the budget twice in 2020, forcing the district into a contingency budget that drastically cut athletics and other extra curricular activities. Voters, however, did approve the current 2021-22 budget last May by a wide margin.

Ms. Downs said in her opinion it would be “crazy” to go back into another contingency.

“We’ve already seen what was lost the last contingency,” she said. “To have our children go through something like that again, to me personally, is horrific.”

She said the board has worked with the district’s administrators to bring the budget as low as possible.

“Anything less at this point we would have to take away from students,” she said.

Board member Virginia Healy encouraged residents to view the prior budget presentations and to compare to other district’s of similar size to Riverhead, such as Bay Shore.

Sharon Park of Aquebogue, who has two children in the district, said she hopes fellow residents follow Ms. Healy’s advice to compare the district’s proposed budget to similar-sized districts.

“It’s extremely frustrating to read post after post about voting no for the budget on social media,” she said.

The school budget vote is Tuesday, May 17. Ms. Downs is seeking a third term on the Board of Education and incumbent vice president Matthew Wallace is seeking a second term. They will be challenged by Riverhead resident Andrew Nadeau.