Riverhead Voters Approve Budget; Reject Land Purchase Proposition

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While voters approved the Riverhead School District’s $117.6 million budget on Tuesday, they rejected a proposition that would have paved the way for the district to relocate its bus maintenance facility to Riverside.

Proposition 3, which failed 1,183-1,413, would have authorized the district to purchase two parcels near the Phillips Avenue Elementary School for a total of $480,000. The district said the acquisition would have allowed buses to reach State Route 24 without traveling through residential areas, if the district moved forward with a plan to build a new storage facility behind the school. The current bus barn, located off Osborn Avenue in Riverhead, is dilapidated and in need of extensive repairs, they said.

Local civic leaders vehemently opposed the district’s proposal to purchase the properties, which are located in the Riverside Enterprise Zone and zoned light industrial. Under school ownership, the lots would be removed from the tax rolls, placing a heavier burden on the community. They also argued that the buses would tie up traffic in the hamlet, which already struggles with that problem.

Brad Bender, the outgoing president of the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association, said he and other civic leaders spent a substantial amount of time calling voters and explaining their position on the issue.

“This is just to show people that you can’t come over to the Flanders, Northampton and Riverside area and try to cram things down the throats of the people,” he said. “It’s just not going to work.”

Newly elected FRNCA President Vince Taldone said he plans to work with both Southampton and Riverhead town officials to find a property that could be suitable for a new bus storage facility. “I hope that we’re able to help them find the right property so that they don’t think the community is their enemy—we’re not,” he said.

Voters on Tuesday approved a proposition authorizing the district to establish a capital reserve fund for the purpose of renovating, or demolishing and rebuilding, its bus storage and maintenance facility.

The district’s budget passed by a vote of 1,520-1,252. The plan will increase overall spending by 5.2 percent, and the tax levy by 3.8 percent. District officials said they could not share the projected tax rates for Southampton, Riverhead and Brookhaven town residents.

Incumbent Amelia Lantz and newcomer Chris Dorr were elected to the Board of Education in a three-way race with incumbent Jeff Falisi. Ms. Lantz received 1,270 votes, Mr. Dorr received 1,423 votes and Mr. Falisi received 1,082 votes.

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