Riverhead High School students and football players Andrew MacGray, right, Mike Pace, left and Mike McLean are organizing a July 25 rally to support the school budget passage. Courtesy photo

Riverhead High School students, worried about program cuts coming if the upcoming school budget revote fails, are planning a rally on July 25 to urge voters to pass the budget.

Riverhead Blue Waves football players Andrew MacGray and his friends Mike Pace and Mike McLean are organizing the rally, which they hope will draw hundreds of students and family members to Route 58 at the traffic circle, to support the budget and raise community awareness.

Reeling from the coronavirus-related cancellation of spring sports and the closing of gyms where student athletes worked out, Andrew said the prospect of fall sports being canceled by the budget failure prompted the trio to act.

“We decided we wanted to start a movement,” Andrew said in an interview yesterday.

“But it’s not just about sports,” he said. “It’s about the loss of clubs, music groups and electives, too.”

“We need these programs,” Andrew said.

The rally is planned to take place at the Route 58 circle from 9 a.m. to noon. The boys are putting out word of the rally through social media and in the local news media. A fourth student, Madison Williams, is working on obtaining an assembly permit from Riverhead Police, Andrew said.

“We want to show how much we as a community and we as students care,” Andrew said.

“The students can’t vote but our voices are important.”

Riverhead Central school district voters rejected a proposed $147.1 million budget in a vote conducted by mail last month, at the direction of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who banned in-person voting in school district elections statewide due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Riverhead budget, one of just 11 in the state to fail — and the only failed budget in Suffolk County — went down by 326 votes out of 6,020 votes cast, in an election that saw a historic turnout. It was the first time in 14 years Riverhead voters rejected a school budget.

Some school board members immediately pledged a budget revote as soon as the governor allowed it.

On June 29, the board adopted a $144.8 contingent budget, which will remain the district’s adopted budget for the 2020-2021 school year, should the budget fail a second time. It does not increase the tax levy over the 2019-2020 levy.

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.

The governor on Friday night signed an executive order authorizing budget revotes on July 28 with in-person voting.

The school board on Tuesday scheduled a revote on the same proposed budget. Voting will take place at the four district elementary schools. Voters can find their polling place locations here.

Absentee ballots will be provided to voters who don’t want to go to the polls because of COVID-19. The absentee ballot application can be downloaded on the district website or obtained by calling the district clerk at (631) 369-4724. 

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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.