Guest Column: No more budget gimmicks. It’s time for a change

10/02/2015 9:00 AM |

Cash money

Your Sept. 17 editorial, “Town’s budget woes are coming to light yet again,” is unfortunately spot on in identifying the issues that many taxpayers, myself included, have with Sean Walter, our current supervisor.

In the summer before he presented his budget, he warned us that a huge tax increase of 12.5 percent and layoffs of 60 town workers were both imminent.

While we all anxiously held our breaths and watched, the supervisor rolled up his sleeves and instead passed a budget filled with one-shot anticipated revenues — a budget gimmick that should never be used at the local level. It is bad enough that our state and county governments do this, but hey, they have a broader base of taxpayers to spread and collect from. So the pain felt is somewhat bearable.

Frustration and anger are what we all feel when someone proposes a budget based on intangible revenues. Among these revenues that were included in the budget and have yet to be seen are:

• Anticipated sales at EPCAL in 2015 equaling $750,000,

• Anticipated revenue from money owed to Riverhead from several years ago in the amount of $600,000. John Kennedy, our county comptroller at the time, told me this money would most likely not materialize.

• Sales of town property. One parcel was originally going to go for $375,00 but, due to pushback from some board members, went for $500,000. Another sale, as mentioned in your editorial, is not going to happen.

Mr. Walter was bent on pushing through this budget, as it was an election year. Let us not forget he embraced an idea to float a $6 million bridge loan — a loan that was to be paid back by anticipated sales at EPCAL. Thank goodness he was stopped, as the repayment would be due sometime soon.

Finally, let us look at one more of Sean Walter’s ideas. He wants state legislation to refinance our CPF debt so our kids can pay it back. I, for one, am not willing to add another layer of debt to our children’s shoulders.

What happened to Mr. Walter? He came in and had to put his head down those first two years. He bulled through things, which I even agreed that he had to do. He admitted he had to break a few eggs, and even I agree. However, the next two terms required cooperation across the aisle and work with others. Instead, we got continued fighting because he does not get his way.

I find it quite interesting that Mr. Walter has previously proposed a 12-year term limit for the office of supervisor, which is, coincidentally, the amount of time necessary to gain lifelong benefits and a $37,000 annual retirement. It leaves us to question whether Mr. Walter is genuinely interested in helping Riverhead or if he’s just in it for the payday.

Simply put, Sean has lost his way. He talks about bigger and better things for the town, but his vision changed from you, the taxpayer, to what his retirement will be. If you only just give him 12 years.

I know that some may not want Jodi Giglio as supervisor, but she has shown that she has the strength and desire to fight. She attempted, along with other council people, to bring real cuts to the budget that was presented. Her cuts were not blue-collar workers, but gratuitous white collar jobs. She tried to present real savings that made sense, but in the end could not get the support to get them done. She and other board members held off the original sale of the firehouse, saying that we could possibly use it to house the town’s police force or Town Hall itself. But in the end the best she could do was at least get more money from the sale.

After Mr. Walter lost the support of his party this past spring at the convention, he ran a primary challenge, a challenge that he lost. Now he says he will still challenge the party. You and I should have been demanding that Mr. Walter stop and get back to working on the budget that he promised.

No more being out of the office campaigning, Mr. Walter. You also need to work together with your board. It is better than more gimmicks and empty promises of “anticipated revenue.”

It is time for a change in the supervisor’s office.

Mr. Haas is a town assessor and former chairman of the Riverhead Republican Party.

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