Editorial: Restructuring talk between departments is overdue

10/04/2015 6:00 AM |

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A plan to merge Riverhead Town’s senior citizen and parks and recreation departments is the kind of thinking that is long overdue in Town Hall. 

According to the state comptroller’s office, Riverhead will face “significant” financial stress in 2016 if it continues down the path it has been traveling in recent years. And who knows what lies beyond that if things don’t change?

From the time it was enacted in 2011, however, an all-Republican Town Board has refused to pierce the 2 percent tax cap, leaving the 2015 budget to be propped up by funds that may — or, more likely, may not — materialize in full by the end of this year. This may well force the town to dip even further into its shrinking reserves.

While a few of the town’s 300 or so employees have seen their job responsibilities change in recent years to maximize their value — and many positions have simply gone unfilled to save money — no major reorganization has taken place.

Consolidating town services and offices is a logical way to reduce the size of government — if it’s done correctly.

Based on the details released so far, merging the services offered by the senior citizen and parks and recreation departments seems one fair way to do that. Both generally serve residents who participate in group activities and offer services to people in certain demographics who need assistance. A merger would also offer opportunities for the departments to share resources, including facilities and equipment, as their schedules and activities generally don’t overlap. In addition, up to $1 million in salaries could be absorbed over time.

We look forward to hearing more details about the proposal and are encouraged by the creative idea to save taxpayer dollars. But again, we have to ask: Where has this kind of thinking been all along?

Photo Caption: Riverhead recreation department superintendent Ray Coyne and senior citizen department head Judy Doll will soon be working together to bridge their two departments. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

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