Superintendent Augustine Tornatore and members of the Riverhead school board during the board's Feb. 28 meeting. Photo: Alek Lewis

The Riverhead Board of Education heard the first of three presentations on the administration’s proposed 2023-2024 school year budget Tuesday.

Assistant Superintendent for Business Rodney Asse presented the figures for the general support and debt service aspects of the proposed budget during the presentation. This is the first school budget for the district under Asse, who joined the district at the beginning of the current school year after the district split with former Deputy Superintendent Sam Schneider last year.

“Now this year, unlike prior years, inflation is a major factor on how we move forward,” Asse said. “Currently, we are looking at an 8.5% inflation rate, which you will see during this budget presentation will have a significant impact on how we move forward, and also the increase in costs.”

“We’ll continue to work with our Board of Education, receive input as we move forward, and also the community will have an opportunity to voice and also give us the necessary information that we need to make a budget that is balanced and responsible,” Asse said.

MORE COVERAGE: School district forensic audit finds no evidence of financial misconduct, though business office was in ‘conflict’ under former administrator
Assistant Superintendent for Business Rodney Asse during the budget presentation to the Riverhead Town Board Feb. 28. Photo: Alek Lewis

The general support section of the budget covers the operation of the district itself, including funding central administration, professional services, insurance, printing and mailing, and BOCES administrative costs.

Here is the breakdown of the changes proposed expenditures for each section of the general support budget:

  • Board of Education: adopted 2022-23 ($26,470), proposed 2023-24 ($26,470)
  • District Clerk: adopted 2022-23 ($104,010), proposed 2023-24 ($117,165)
  • Records Management: adopted 2022-23 ($22,420), proposed 2023-24 ($31,500)
  • Chief School Administrator: adopted 2022-23 ($353,120), proposed 2023-24 ($416,212)
  • Business Administration: adopted 2022-23 ($1,118,665), proposed 2023-24 ($1,806,077)
  • Personnel (Human Resources): adopted 2022-23 ($744,917), proposed 2023-24 ($922,081)
  • Legal services: adopted 2022-23 ($225,327), proposed 2023-24 ($255,990)
  • Public Information and Services: adopted 2022-23 ($90,200), proposed 2023-24 ($190,200)
  • Central Printing and Mailing: adopted 2022-23 ($149,863), proposed 2023-24 ($168,722)
  • Other Administrative Items: adopted 2022-23 ($1,669,742), proposed 2023-24 ($1,714,742)

Many of the proposed increases in expenditures reflect an increase in BOCES services, according to the presentation. For instance, 60% of the business administration’s expenditure increase is for BOCES administrative services and fees. The budget line for BOCES under the  public information and services section of the budget would also double under the proposal.

The business administration’s budget, which would increase 61% under the proposal, also includes significant increases to cover contractual services and personnel lines. 

Other significant increases include the personnel (human resources) section of the budget, which is proposing to increase its budget by $177,164, almost all of which will go towards an increase in the department’s personnel.

Regarding debt service, the district is projected to have a 4.86% increase in costs. That increase is driven by a 14.26% projected increase in the cost of interest payments. 

The Board of Education adopted “budget goals” for the 2023-2024 budget development process on Jan. 10. The goals are: 

  • To design and adopt a budget that stays within the Tax Cap limitations 
  • To develop a budget that maintains district programs, adequate resources, and the support of the community
  • To design and adopt a budget that recognizes the current fiscal reality for Riverhead residents
  • To develop a budget that seeks to identify and implement cost efficiencies in all areas

Budget presentations will continue at the board’s next two meetings, according to a budget development calendar adopted by the board. On March 14, the board will be presented with proposals for the regular day school, transportation and facilities aspects of the budget. On March 28, the board will be presented with proposals for the special education, pupil personnel services, guidance and other instructions items in the budget, as well as with revenues and the tax levy.

The Board of Education is scheduled to adopt the proposed budget on April 19 and have a public hearing on it on May 9. The budget vote is scheduled for Tuesday, May 16.

Also during Tuesday’s meeting, the Board of Education:

  • Authorized an agreement between the district, the Long Island Power Authority, Riverhead Town and other special taxing districts in the Town of Riverhead to allow Riverhead Town to issue a consolidated payments in lieu of taxes statement to LIPA for the collection of PILOTs owed to the district for the 2021-2022 and 2022-2023 tax years. The school district did not receive more than $2.8 million in PILOTs owed to them by the Town of Riverhead for the LIPA properties during the 2021-22 school year, according to the district’s external audit. (Read more here)
  • Accepted the results of the district’s 2021-22 school year annual external audit by firm Cullen & Danowski. (Read more here)
  • Approved a contract with FisherBroyles for legal services related to the cyber attack on the district that occurred in December 2021. Superintendent Augustine Tornatore said  The district will be reimbursed for the fees by its insurance company, Hartford Steam Boiler.

The survival of local journalism depends on your support.
We are a small family-owned operation. You rely on us to stay informed, and we depend on you to make our work possible. Just a few dollars can help us continue to bring this important service to our community.
Support RiverheadLOCAL today.

Alek Lewis is a lifelong Riverhead resident and a 2021 graduate of Stony Brook University’s School of Communication and Journalism. Previously, he served as news editor of Stony Brook’s student newspaper, The Statesman, and was a member of the campus’s chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Email: