TODAY'S PAPER
Few Clouds 42° Good Evening
Few Clouds 42° Good Evening

VOTING

6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday at Riley Avenue, Phillips Avenue, Aquebogue and Roanoke Avenue elementary schools.

THE BUDGET

The district proposes a $136,388,547 budget for 2017-18, a 4.38 percent increase from the current $130,669,295. The tax levy would rise by 3.77 percent, from $97,672,426 to $101,357,047.

This increase is equal to the district’s tax-cap limit, so a simple majority vote will be required to approve the budget.

The district said it could not provide estimates for school taxes on the average single-family home because equalization rates have not been set, and tax rates for the three towns that the district includes could not be calculated.

The proposed budget includes raises of 0.75 percent plus step increases for some teachers; the size of the step increases depends on experience. There would be no reductions in staff, and the district would add an elementary assistant principal, a director of fine arts, a reading teacher, 4.5 English as a New Language teachers, a math teacher, a science teacher, two special education teachers, a technology teacher and several part-time teachers.

Voters also will be asked to approve setting up a repair reserve fund of up to $7.5 million from district fund balances or other available funds to handle major repairs at district buildings.

THE CANDIDATES

Incumbents Christopher J. Dorr and Gregory M. Meyer and candidates Gregory John Fischer, Yolanda M. Thompson and Therese Zuhoski are running for three at-large seats. Terms are three years. Dorr, Meyer and Zuhoski are running as a slate.

Christopher J. Dorr

BACKGROUND: Dorr, 48, has lived in the district 20 years. He works in instructional support and data for the South Country school district. His wife is a principal in the Amagansett district. He has a bachelor’s degree from SUNY Potsdam and a master of business administration degree in marketing and human resource management from Clarkson University. He is a PAL football coach and an official for boys and girls lacrosse. He has two children attending Riverhead schools and one who graduated. He has been on the school board for four years.

ISSUES: The biggest issue is getting funding help from the state to handle an influx of 600 students needing English language help, Dorr said. “Riverhead district’s population is skyrocketing. Our ENL population is skyrocketing and it affects our spending. The state says it’s a local problem. Teachers need ESL certification and it’s hard to find them,” he said. “It’s really put a strain on us.” He would like to lobby the state for more state aid and enlist help from legislators.

Gregory John Fischer

BACKGROUND: Fischer, 60, a business consultant, has lived in the district for 15 years. He has an associate degree from CUNY, a bachelor’s degree from SUNY New Paltz and a master’s degree in production and operations management from the University at Albany. He is a director of Americans for Legal Reform and a member of the Calverton Civic Association. He has two children attending district schools.

ISSUES: The district’s tax rate is increasing too quickly, Fischer said, and at the present rate, taxes will double in 15 years. “The town is withering. We’re losing people who paid taxes,” he said, saying there were 500 houses in or near foreclosure or auction. “In a quickly collapsing economy, it’s unsustainable.” The school district isn’t just about kids and taxes, he said, it’s synergistic — and if property values go down, that’s a problem. “I would reverse that spiral down,” he said.

Gregory M. Meyer

BACKGROUND: Meyer, 48, a lifelong district resident, is a firefighter and EMT at Brookhaven National Laboratory. His wife works as a teacher’s aide in the Riverhead district. He previously was a volunteer firefighter for the Wading River and Riverhead departments and has coached PAL football and Little League, and volunteers teaching football to district middle schoolers. His three children attended district schools. He is seeking his fourth term on the board.

ISSUES: Between increased enrollment and the tax cap, it’s been tough trying to keep programs going and to expand, Meyer said. “We have to try and battle Albany and get our local reps to plead our case” for more state aid, he said. Studies the district had done projected up to 200 additional students over 20 years, but the district has gotten about 600 new students since 2009, he said. The district needs to look elsewhere for funds while continuing to educate all students and maintaining the buildings, he added.

Yolanda M. Thompson

BACKGROUND: Thompson, 45, who has lived in the district for 16 years, is a special education advocate and a home health aide. She has a certificate in finance and banking from Brookhaven Technical Center and has studied paralegal studies at Suffolk County Community College. She is a member of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates. She has two children in district schools.

ISSUES: A lack of effective communication and transparency is the most important issue facing the district, Thompson said, especially in fiscal matters. She said she would work hard to change that and get more community involvement. She suggests using the district’s robocall system more frequently to invite and remind parents of school board meetings; using surveys to get feedback on which communication methods work best; and using a text-messaging system to keep parents informed if there is a school incident or threat situation. Thompson said she also would organize public forums to discuss the financial challenges and educational changes facing district families.

Therese Zuhoski

BACKGROUND: Zuhoski, 49, a stay-at-home mom, has lived in the district 14 years. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Marist College and a master’s degree in social work from Columbia University, and did social work and worked in human resources in New York City. She has been active and held offices in the Parent Teacher Organization and Parent Teacher Student Organization for 13 years. She also has volunteered for the Community Awareness Program, teaching students ways to handle bullying and peer pressure. She has four children attending district schools.

ISSUES: Her strength is bringing people together, she said, and she will use her skills to bridge the gap between the community and the schools. “My strengths include kindness, respect and cooperation. Everything I do is for the betterment of the students.” Riverhead is a strong community, she said, and she will work with others to start programs that encourage kids to be kids and enjoy the time that they’re in school.

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