Gov. Andrew Cuomo at a press conference on July 1. Courtesy photo

Riverhead school district voters will likely be going to the polls on July 28 to weigh in on the 2020-2021 operating budget that failed to pass in last month’s all-mail election.

School districts in New York that failed to pass an operating budget for 2020-2021 can hold a revote on July 28, under an executive order signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo Friday.

Unlike the all-mail vote held June 9, the upcoming revote can be held in person, following guidance to be issued by the State Department of Health, the order says. Due to the coronavirus crisis, absentee ballots will be provided to all who request them.

The governor’s order, signed on Friday, July 3 — a government and school district holiday — imposes a notice requirement that is very difficult to meet. While the governor dispensed with the requirement that notice of the vote be published twice in a newspaper, he instead ordered school districts to send a postcard notice to all district residents no later than 21 days before the revote — in other words, by Tuesday. The notice must contain details on the date and location of the revote, the date of the budget hearing and instructions for applying for an absentee ballot. The order also allows school districts to send voters notice by email “if the school district possesses a resident’s valid email address.”

The governor’s executive order, issued Friday evening, left districts like Riverhead, where voters rejected the budget in June, scrambling to comply with its very short deadlines.

The school board’s reorganization meeting is scheduled to take place tomorrow evening at 7 p.m. At that time, the board, if it decides to hold a revote, will need adopt a budget and schedule a public hearing prior to the July 28 vote.

Since the fiscal year for all school districts in New York started July 1, districts where budgets failed must operate under a contingency budget until at least July 28. The school board adopted a $144.8 million contingency budget on June 29 .

Riverhead was the only school district in Suffolk County to have its budget rejected by voters in the June 9 election. Two districts in Nassau also had budgets voted down. Statewide, just 11 out of 675 school districts failed to pass their budgets, according to State Education Department data. Three of the 11 rejected budgets won the support of a majority of voters but failed because they required 60% support to pierce the tax levy cap.

Riverhead voters shot down the proposed budget 3,173 against to 2,847 in favor. The mail-in balloting saw a record turnout in a Riverhead Central School District election.

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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.