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Riverhead putting $97M bond proposal before voters for schools, fields

The Riverhead School District Board of Education will

The Riverhead School District Board of Education will put the propositions for bonds to do repairs and renovations in district schools before voters on Feb. 25. Credit: John Roca

With Riverhead schools facing problems linked to overcrowding, district officials are asking residents to pass two separate propositions next month totaling $97 million that are aimed at repairs and renovations.

The Riverhead School District Board of Education will put the propositions before voters Feb. 25. The board voted unanimously at its Jan. 7 meeting to adopt the bond resolutions.

If approved, Proposition No.1 would cost the average homeowner $197 annually in property taxes, while the second proposition would cost an additional $36 annually, according to district estimates.

Proposition No. 1 would cost $88.2 million and would fund building additions and/or renovations and improvements to all schools, including:

  • Construction of building additions to provide for new classrooms, a cafeteria, gymnasium and other space;
  • Interior reconstruction and space reconfiguration;
  • Safety and security upgrades;
  • Improved access for the physically challenged to facilities.

Proposition No. 2 would cost $8.8 million and would fund improvements to several athletic ballfields, including adding synthetic turf to McKillop Field, where the Riverhead High School lacrosse and football teams play. The second proposition would not move forward if voters reject Proposition No. 1.

Aurelia L. Henriquez, the district’s superintendent, said the $88.2 million bond is based on community feedback at meetings, asking the district to factor rising enrollment into the bond. Residents also told the Riverhead Town Board last fall that overcrowding at schools had become a problem.

To date, Pulaski Street Elementary School and Riverhead High School are “operating with an enrollment over capacity,” Henriquez said. The enrollment numbers for Riverhead High School were 1,922 in 2018, while Pulaski has about 875 students, the latter at 114 percent capacity as of October 2019, according to district figures. Approximately 5,595 students were enrolled in the school district as of 2019. 

Riverhead Board of Education president Greg Meyer said in a statement that the board took residents’ feedback into account “as we prioritized the needs of our school district to develop a proposed bond we believe is fiscally responsible and addresses our immediate needs to repair and improve our schools.”

Stephanie Ranghelli, a Riverhead resident with children in the district, said that while she credited the board for reconfiguring original bond projections, she believes more people would have time to understand what they are voting for — and support it — if the board moved the vote to June.

“I think some community members are just not comfortable with that timeframe [February] right now, especially because they couldn’t make meetings or they might just have more questions,” Ranghelli said. “I think they just want more time.”

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