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The Riverhead Central School District’s 2023-2024 budget proposal includes a more than 8.4% increase in expenditures for general classroom teaching, instruction and support.

The budget calls for a more than $4.2 million increase in the “regular day school” line, Assistant Superintendent for Business Rodney Asse said during a budget presentation at Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting.

Expenditures for school personnel would increase by $2.7 million — a 7.16% increase — according to the presentation. When asked in an interview after his presentation how many new faculty and staff members would be added in the school year, Asse said that is yet to be determined. “We’re not there yet.”

Assistant Superintendent Rodney Asse during a budget presentation at the March 14 school board meeting. Photo: Alek Lewis

In addition to new courses this year, the district is continuing its high school night school program begun this year for students to complete their degrees on an evening schedule. It also plans to start a new adult program with courses on health and wellness, computers, financial literacy, cooking, English as a new language and fine arts that would operate on a self-sustaining, nonprofit basis, Asse said. 

The “regular day school” increase also includes a projected 12.1% increase in tuition payable to the Riverhead Charter School. The home school district of charter school students are required by law to pay per-pupil tuition to the charter school, and the district is projecting that 598 resident students will attend the charter school — 45 more than budgeted for this year — increasing the charter school tuition by roughly $1.24 million over the current year’s tuition expense. 

The charter school was granted an expansion last year to increase its maximum student enrollment by 400 and to teach grades 11 and 12. The charter school opened a new high school in a renovated Northville school house last year to support its expansion. Most of the students in the charter school are from Riverhead, with others coming from other areas in Suffolk County. 

MORE COVERAGE: Riverhead Charter School debuts new high school, as first graduating class begins junior year

The budget lines for supplies, textbooks, equipment, BOCES and contractual services will also increase by roughly $300,000, a 12.4% increase over the current year.

The presentation also outlined projected expenditures for facilities, security, transportation, curriculum and instruction administration and employee benefits.

The facilities budget would increase a little more than $1 million over last year’s adopted budget, Roughly half of that increase supplements the budget lines for contractual services, while the other half supplements the budget lines for employees, including custodial workers and maintenance personnel.

The district’s security budget expense will increase 28.9%, driven by a 29% increase in security personnel over the current year. Security materials and supplies expenditure would also increase to $79,700 — a 94.4% increase from this year’s budget.

The transportation district services budget line will increase by 21.5% under the proposal. This increase is driven by a nearly $6.2 million budget for transportation personnel — a 16.88% increase from the current year’s adopted budget — and increases in budget lines for equipment and repairs, maintenance and materials and supplies, including gas. The budget for BOCES transportation services also increased by 28.82%.

The budget for curriculum and instruction administration will increase by $248,443 — a 55.32% increase from this year’s adopted budget — under the proposal. That increase is driven primarily by a $213,692 increase in BOCES expenses, which is more than double the current year.

The budget for employee benefits will increase by 16.5% under the proposal due to significant cost increases for retirement, FICA/medicare, health insurance and other insurance benefits.

Asse began budget presentations at the board’s last regular meeting by presenting the figures for the general support and debt service aspects of the budget. 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.

Asse will present the district’s budgeting for special education, occupational education, pupil personnel services, computer assisted instruction and technology, other instructional items, revenue and the tax levy at board’s next meeting on March 28. 

The Board of Education is scheduled to vote to adopt the budget on April 19, with a budget hearing scheduled for May 9 and a district-wide budget vote to be held for May 16.

Superintendent Augustine Tornatore and members of the Riverhead Board of Eduction at the board’s March 14 meeting. Photo: Alek Lewis

In other action Tuesday night, the board:

  • Approved a revised contract between the school district, LIPA, the Town of Riverhead and all the special taxing districts within the town regarding the invoicing of PILOT payments due to the taxing authorities by LIPA for the 2021-2022 and 2022-2023 tax years. The school district is owed roughly $3 million in overdue PILOT payments from the Town of Riverhead for the 2021-2022 tax year.
MORE COVERAGE: Dispute between Riverhead and LIPA over invoicing PILOT payments nears an end
  • Adopted a corrective action plan in response to the results of the district’s 2021-22 school year external audit and financial statement reports.
MORE COVERAGE: Audit: Riverhead school district had surplus of more than $9.9 million in 2021-2022, thanks to increased state aid and coronavirus relief funds
  • The board also approved a contract for routing management and transportation advisory services for the district with Transpar Group for $278, 760 during a special meeting on March 8. A previous contract with the group was not authorized by the board at a meeting in January, which board members said was due to the high cost of the services. The district solicited further requests for proposals and received only one proposal back, from Transpar, for $10,000 less than the previous price. The Board of Education tabled a resolution authorizing the contract with the firm at a previous meeting and the price of the contract was reduced by another $10,000.

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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: