Though overall CPF funds are up, Riverhead’s revenues plummet

07/21/2015 8:00 PM |

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During the first six months of this year, Peconic Bay Community Preservation Fund has boasted increased revenue compared to 2014, according to elected officials.

Riverhead Town, however, had nothing to do with it.

The CPF as a whole has seen a 5.5 percent increase in revenue year over year having raised a total of $48.28 million, according to data from state Assemblyman Fred Thiele’s office.

The fund’s money is obtained through a voter-approved two percent real estate transfer tax and is used to purchase open space and farmland development rights in the five East End towns.

But while the total funds have risen so far this year, Riverhead’s contribution decreased by 20.7 percent, from $1.79 million to $1.42 million.

“This is a pretty flat housing market,” said Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter. “It’s a buyers market, at least in Riverhead and Eastern Brookhaven. It’s not a sellers market. It’s not a vibrant market at this point.”

Mr. Walter noted differences in the type of real estate in each town, calling Riverhead a “commercial town” and describing Southold’s market as having more second-home buyers, which he said contributes to the current CPF discrepancy.

“We could get one banner commercial sale and we’ll blow away our numbers, so I’m not really worried,” he said.

Mr. Walter said Riverhead has had good years of CPF revenue in the past — including last year. But he said the overall housing market across the country shows a weak economy. Like Riverhead, Shelter Island was down in CPF revenues, posting 11.8 percent less money during the first six months of this year.

The other East End towns, however, saw more CPF money flowing in.

Southold revenue rose 20.7 percent, from $2.21 million to $2.76 million.

East Hampton also saw an increase of 6.5 percent during the first six months of 2015 compared to 2014 and Southampton fund revenue rose by 5.8 percent.

“It’s a very straightforward formula,” said Southold Supervisor Scott Russell. “More sales, which we’ve had a tremendous volume of sales in Southold, and escalating prices increase the revenue generated.”

Mr. Russell said the noticeable increase in CPF revenue raised shows signs of a good housing market.

According to a statement released by Mr. Thiele (I-Sag Harbor), even with decreased revenue in two of the five towns, revenues in June alone increased from $7.5 million in 2014 to $9.02 million in 2015.

Over the last 12 months, CPF has generated $100.3 million. Created in 1999, it has since generated a total of $1.04 billion.

“2014 was the largest year for CPF revenues in the history of the program,” Mr. Thiele said in his statement. “This reflects the continued strength in East End real estate and the continued availability to local towns of the necessary revenues to protect community character. ”

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