Blue Waves, shown celebrating a touchdown pass in September 2018, will find athletics programs on the chopping block under a contingent budget approved by the school board today. File photo: Courtney Blasl

The Riverhead school board whacked $2,029,990 from the proposed budget rejected by district voters this month to adopt a contingent budget of $144,831,131 for the next school year.

The ax fell hardest on academic programs and extracurricular activities, including a nearly $1 million cut from the district’s athletics programs.

The board intends to put the failed budget up for a revote when the governor sets a date for a second vote, outgoing board president Greg Meyer said. An existing executive order by the governor said no revote could take place before July 9. In voting conducted exclusively by absentee ballot due to the coronavirus pandemic, the proposed $147.1 million budget failed by a vote of 2,847 in favor and 3,173 opposed.

The contingent budget cuts $963,978 from athletics, $317,947 from clubs and music performances, $151,108 from high school electives, $148,459 from the elementary literacy program, $135,122 from the science program and $100,000 from computer technology. It also cuts $121,839 from auto and building maintenance, $223,750 in planned equipment purchases and $57,025 in salary increases for individually contracted employees.

Under the contingent budget, there would be no increase in the tax levy over the levy for the 2019-2020 school year.

Board member Therese Zuhoski objected to the district’s approach to paring the budget down to stay within the current year’s tax levy.

“I am not in favor of cutting any programs,” she said. She urged that the board should look at “non-mandated programs and whatever would least affect our students.”

Zuhoski also said the cuts should come from “admin and directors’ salaries and position as a first resort.”

“Paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for these positions over cutting academics, sports, music programs, reading intervention and ROTC is a big no for me,” Zuhoski said.

“I want to confirm this is just to keep us until we can get to the next vote,” board member Chris Dorr said.

The board adopted the contingent budget unanimously with Zuhoski, despite her objections, voting in favor.

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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.