No. 2 Story of the Year: Riverhead’s budget saga

12/31/2014 8:00 AM |
Supervisor Sean Walter and councilman George Gabrielsen at a recent town board work session. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

Supervisor Sean Walter and councilman George Gabrielsen at a recent town board work session. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

The budget process for Riverhead Town’s 2015 spending plan started off the same way it has for the past several years: with a so-called “structural deficit.”

The looming budget gap of about $4 million occurred because the town applied surplus funds from the sale of land at the Enterprise Park at Calverton to offset property tax increases.
Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter has said this year’s budget situation is a little more dire, because the town is getting close to using up all its surplus funds — something he blames on accumulating costs associated with the landfill closure during the Town Board’s previous administration.

The adopted 2015 budget reflected a significant amount in anticipated revenues, including $750,000 from the sale or lease of land at EPCAL and $613,000 in expected reimbursement from Suffolk County on landfill costs.

In mid-December, the town was notified that the Long Island Power Authority had selected a solar energy project at EPCAL, whose developer would either buy or lease the land from the town.

“Our ship has come in,” Mr. Walter said.

Hecate Energy plans to build a 7.5-megawatt solar energy facility within a proposed 90-acre energy park at EPCAL. If Hecate chooses to lease, the town stands to make between $600,000 and $1 million in annual payments, Mr. Walter said. If the company opts to buy land, the town could make even more.

“We’re in very good shape,” he said.

Despite this, he said, the $613,000 reimbursement from the county is not forthcoming.

Top 10 stories of 2014

No. 10: Historic district is history

No. 9: A near-record year for snowfall

No. 8: After 12 years, Bishop is bounced

No. 7: Highest-paid L.I. school employee

No. 6: Series of attacks near downtown

No. 5: Tide starts to turn in Riverside

No. 4: Skydiver killed, instructor critically injured

No. 3: Fatalities on area roadways

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