Riverhead School District eyeing no tax hike for 2023-2024 budget; final review scheduled for April 19
Riverhead Central School District is aiming for a 0% tax increase with their proposed 2023-2024 budget, according to district superintendent Augustine Tornatore.
Mr. Tornatore emphasized that this is by no means the district’s finalized budget. Last year, voters passed a $169.7 million dollar spending plan that carried a 1% tax levy increase.
“We certainly need to go back and continually review to see how we could attempt to cut as many costs as possible,” he said. “We are looking to present to the board a budget that would have a zero tax levy increase for next year.”
The announcement was made at Tuesday night’s Board of Education meeting where the district’s assistant superintendent for finance and operations, Rodney Asse, made the third presentation on the district’s proposed budget for next school year.
The proposed expenditure budget for next school year is nearly $193 million — up over $23 million more than last year’s adopted budget of $169.7 million. Their proposed revenue budget for next year is $184 million, up 8.43% from last year’s $169.7 million total.
Mr. Asse also discussed the projected $8.9 million budget gap between proposed revenues and expenses and outlined the factors that drive the increase in expenses. According to the presentation, those factors include health insurance, transportation, student need, workforce shortages, security, inflation and building maintenance.
“These are the factors that just based on our analysis we have done and on the data we have, but that’s truly driving your budget gap,” he said. “It does bring up some challenges, we’ll also have some opportunity to make some significant improvements as we move forward.”
The presentation covered the budgets for special education, computer assisted instruction and technology, interfund transfer and other instructional areas.
Special education costs are projected at $27.2 million, up just over 15% over last year’s budget of $23.5 million.
The largest increase in other instructional areas was for summer school and other instruction, which is projected to increase 59.18% to $2.4 million. That line item also covered the district’s English Language Learners program, career and technology education, library guidance nursing, counseling and Pupil and Personnel Services, extracurriculars and athletics.
Funding for the English Language Learners program is also slated to increase 17.4% to $5.5 million, largely due to salary increases and other compensations.
Mr. Asse’s presentation also covered what the district expects to receive from state aid.
The district is projecting to receive a nearly $12.9 million increase in state aid compared to last year for a total of $67.4 million. Of that aid, the largest decrease would be money earmarked for the Riverhead Charter School, which would receive 53% — or $1 million — less in aid.
The district is proposing to transfer $1.3 million to the capital fund, which is 13.33% less than last year’s $1.5 million.
According to the presentation, “the $1.3 million transfer will be funded using unspent funds from the 2021-2022 school year and the General Fund Repair Reserve.”
If the budget is passed, this money will go towards upgrading sound systems in selected auditoriums, courtyards, basketball backboards and storage rooms. Other upgrades and repairs include refurbishing floors and walls in selected gymnasiums as well as the replacement of doors and windows in classrooms. The funds would also go towards parking lot repairs and resurfacing playground areas which were noted as “necessary capital improvements” in the presentation.
The full presentation is available on the district website at riverhead.net. There will be one final budget review on April 19 according to the presentation, when the Board of Education is expected to adopt the proposed budget. There will be a public hearing on the proposed budget on May 9 and the budget vote will take place May 16.