Riverhead School Budget Revote is Tuesday

After the Riverhead Central School District’s $147.1 million school budget failed by 52.7 percent in an all-mail in vote June 9, the district is putting up the budget again for a re-vote next Tuesday, July 28.

The budget vote will be held in person at the district’s four elementary schools — voters will cast ballots at the elementary school that corresponds to where children living at their address would attend school. Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. at Riley Avenue Elementary School in Calverton, Aquebogue Elementary School in Aquebogue; Phillips Avenue Elementary School in Riverside/Flanders and Roanoke Avenue Elementary School in downtown Riverhead.

The district has a polling place and voter registration locator on its website that provides polling place information for individual voters.

The Riverhead Central School District is the largest school district on the East End, educating nearly 5,600 students in eight separate schools, with students coming from as far as Jamesport, Wading River and Flanders to be educated by the system.

Riverhead, which is facing an unprecedented increase in enrollment, had put up two construction bonds totaling $95 million earlier this year to expand classroom space for the burgeoning enrollment, but the bonds failed spectacularly, with 74 percent of voters casting ‘no’ votes, in early February.

After next year’s operating budget vote failed June 9, the school board voted on June 29 to adopt a contingency budget that will shave $2.3 million from programming if Tuesday’s vote fails. The $144.8 million contingency budget would cancel the district’s entire athletics and music programs, student clubs, elementary school literacy programs and some high school elective and science programs from next year’s budget.     

The school district received $32.5 million in aid from New York State in the 2019-2020 school year, and was projected in March by the State Education Department to receive $33.6 million for the 2020-2021 school year — about 22.8 percent of the budget, though the district anticipated receiving just $32.9 million from the state in the budget it adopted in May.

But state aid to schools will likely be among the first things on the chopping block as New York prepares to deal with the fiscal fallout of the pandemic, as Governor Andrew Cuomo has said repeatedly as he pleaded for federal aid to help the state.

Much still remains unknown about what the 2020-2021 school district will look like, or what the costs associated with re-starting school with Covid precautions in place will be.

The district has assembled a Re-Entry Task Force and six subcommittees tasked with designing a structure for reopening based on three scenarios: full return to campus, full remote instruction, or a hybrid of partial return and partial remote instruction. A decision is expected in August.

The district has not yet calculated last year’s full cost savings from the school shutdown in mid-March due to the pandemic.

“Our books will be examined and audited this summer and the Board of Education will be presented with the results of that audit in early fall. The exact figures will be known at that time,” according to a statement from the district accompanying the budget re-vote. “The district has long stated that any money left over from the 2019-2020 budget will be put into reserves and used as a revenue source should the projected cuts to State Aid become a reality. We have been told that we should expect our State Aid to be reduced by as much as 20 percent. Our reserves will help make up that gap.”

The July 21 deadline to mail in completed absentee ballot applications for Tuesday’s vote has passed, but absentee ballot applications can still be applied for in person at the district clerk office at 700 Osborn Avenue, Riverehead, between 8:15 a.m. and 2 p.m., Monday through Friday. The application is also online here.

Absentee ballot applications must be delivered in person to the district clerk no later than Monday, July 27 in order to receive an absentee ballot in person. These ballots must be received by the district clerk, either through the mail or at a drop box at the main door of the district office at 700 Osborn Avenue no later than 5 p.m. Tuesday, July 28.

Beth Young

Beth Young has been covering the East End since the 1990s. In her spare time, she runs around the block, tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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