Riverhead Voters Say ‘No’ To $147 Million School Budget

Courtesy Riverhead Central School District
The Riley Avenue Elementary School is part of the Riverhead Central School District.

Riverhead and Mattituck-Cutchogue school districts did not find out for sure whether budgets they floated passed muster with voters until Wednesday. Both districts suspended the counting of the ballots Tuesday night in the unprecedented mail-in only vote, and resumed it again on Wednesday.

Ultimately, the $147 million proposed budget for the Riverhead Central School District failed, 3173 to 2847, while voters in the Mattituck-Cutchogue School District approved the $41.4 million budget, 1660 to 754.

All of the other budgets on the East End were approved by wide margins with a higher than usual voter turnout.

Governor Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order just days before the June 9 budget vote and school board election, requiring districts to wait until June 16 to count ballots. Registered voters received absentee ballots in the mail along with postage-paid return envelopes. The vote, which usually happens on the third Tuesday in May, was rescheduled due to COVID-19.

“The Riverhead Central School District thanks all those who cast their ballot in this year’s school budget. We are discouraged and disheartened over this defeat and are in the process of determining our options and next steps, which will be communicated once the district and Board of Education have reached an outcome,” the district said in a prepared statement.

A proposition on the Riverhead ballot to spend $469,470 from an existing reserve account to install a walk-in freezer at Pulaski Street School and other cafeteria improvements passed, however. Voters approved it 3969 to 2050.

As for the Riverhead school board elections, incumbents Therese Zuhoski, who received the most votes with 2479, and Christopher Dorr, who received 1954 votes, were reelected. Virginia Healey, a newcomer, will join them on the board with 1877 ballots cast in her favor.

Others candidates’ bid for the board fell short. They were Ann Cotton-DeGrasse, who received 1715 votes, Stephanie Ranghelli with 1391, Yolanda Thompson with 1297, Gregory-John Fischer who took in 1150, Ryan Gregor with 1131, and Amelia Lantz with 890.

In addition to the budget, Mattituck-Cutchogue voters also approved two propositions, one to expend Capital Reserve funds, 1895 to 517, and another to create a Repair Reserve Fund, 1646 to 752.

Two newcomers ousted a sitting board member. Patricia Arslanian and Mary Lynn Hoeg were elected with 1461 and 1451 votes respectively. Brian O. Mealy was unseated with 1381 votes.

“The board of education and administration wish to thank all those who voted,” Superintendent of Schools Jill Gierasch said in a statement. “We are grateful for your continued support. Together, we will continue to provide our students with the quality education and services they need to be successful in the future.” 

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