Information sign about school budget vote in front of the high school in 2017. File photo: Denise Civiletti

If you’re a registered voter in the Riverhead Central School District, did you vote in last Tuesday’s election?

If not, you’re not alone.

In fact, more than 90 percent of the district’s registered voters were a no-show in the vote on the $144.4 million operating budget for the upcoming school year and the election of two trustees.

Last Tuesday’s school district vote in Riverhead saw the lowest voter turnout in 20 years. Only 2,274 people participated in the May 21 vote — just 9.8 percent of the 22,907 registered voters in the school district as of the date of the election.

In contrast voter turnout in town elections typically hovers around 40 percent of registered voters.

Nearly 65 percent of the 2,274 voters who participated in the May 21 election said “yes” to the proposed budget, which passed 1,468-806.

Riverhead school district voters — the 10 to 15 percent of them who actually vote in school elections — have not rejected a proposed budget since 2006, when a $93.4 million spending plan failed by a vote of 1,576 (yes) to 1,667 (no). Voters approved an $87.7 million budget the following year and have continued to approve proposed budgets every year since.

The district was unable to provide total voter registration numbers for years prior to 2009. But at least since 2009, the number of registered voters in the district has remained more or less constant over time — while the proportion of registered voters participating in elections has, over the last decade, declined.

Student enrollment in the district has increased 23 percent since the 1999-2000 school year — and 16 percent since the 2009-2010 school year. The district had 4,565 students in 1999-2000, 4,816 students in 2009-2010 and 5,595 students at present — an increase of 1,030 students in the past 20 years.

The district’s operating budget ($144,430,212 for 2019-2020) has increased more than 159 percent since the 1999-2000 school year ($55,614,482).

The budget has increased by $38,494,613 — more than 36 percent — since the 2009-2010 school year ($105,935,599).

More than $6.5 million of the RCSD 2019-2020 operating budget is allocated for Riverhead Charter School tuition to be paid for students from the Riverhead school district attending the charter school. That’s more than triple the tuition paid from district funds in the 2013-2013 school year. Earlier data was not available.

English language learners or ELL students increased from 503 in 2009-2010 to 1,539 in 2018-2019. ELL students represented 2.8 percent of the student population in 1999, 10.4 percent in 2009 and 27.5 percent in 2019.

Special education students (those with an IEP) increased from 606 to 744 between 2009 and 2019.

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Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.