08/22/14 7:00am
08/22/2014 7:00 AM

Screen Shot 2014-08-21 at 4.14.39 PMOver the past decade, Riverhead Town leaders in current and previous administrations have dipped into financial reserves to balance town budgets. Those funds have now run out and hard decisions have to be made in order to close a looming gap of $4 million — nearly 10 percent of the town’s general fund — next year.

Borrowing against future land sales at the Enterprise Park at Calverton — a bridge loan as it’s been called — may seem an easy way out. But the risks are great and it should be avoided. The town is already unable to meet its debt obligations on one gamble it made on future revenues: the Community Preservation Fund. It must learn from its mistakes. The idea is to pay back the bridge loan after two to three years using anticipated proceeds from selling town land at EPCAL. Aside from having to pay interest, the town’s history of selling land there speaks for itself: The last sale was 11 years ago.

Until now, Supervisor Sean Walter has candidly and unabashedly touted an all-or-nothing approach in advocating for the bridge loan: Sell the land and he’ll save taxpayers from a looming, double-digit tax increase. But if land isn’t sold, town residents face a tax increase that could be twice that much — or more over time, should the town keep taking out loans.

From a self-proclaimed fiscal conservative, nothing about Mr. Walter’s plan seems conservative.

But it’s the sheer lack of creativity evidenced so far in discussions about reducing the budget gap that has been most disappointing.

Up to now, no Town Board member has proposed any detailed, out-of-the-box ideas that would plug the hole — whether by cutting, consolidating or finding new revenue sources. Considering they all approved this year’s budget, the blame lies with them just as much as with Mr. Walter.

Finding a common ground between a tax increase, cuts and limited borrowing will likely be what’s best in the end. And until the Town Board finalizes this year’s budget, nothing should be off the table.

How about 3 percent (or even 2 or 1.5 percent) cuts across all town departments? Or furloughs? What would the town’s services (and pocketbook) look like if it folded its dispatching, or even its water district or police department, into the larger Suffolk County entities? Are there any permits the town can extend to two years instead of one? Can fees be increased? Surely, with these questions and so many others as a start, that $4 million deficit can be reduced.

08/16/14 10:00am
08/16/2014 10:00 AM
Teresa McCaskie, of Mattituck, called for the shut down of East Hampton airport if a solution to noise couldn't be reached. (Credit: Jennifer Gustavson)

Teresa McCaskie, of Mattituck, called for the shut down of East Hampton airport if a solution to noise couldn’t be reached. (Credit: Jennifer Gustavson)

There’s much to love about the North Fork as a place to live and visit. Its close-knit communities, wineries and farms stands, forests, creeks and bays all quickly come to mind. Living in what sounds like a war zone isn’t on that list.  (more…)

07/31/14 11:59am
07/31/2014 11:59 AM
Army Sgt. Anthony Venetz (left) and 1st Lt. Gabriel ‘Buddy’ Gengler, who went to school together at Shoreham-Wading River High School, during a chance meeting in Baghdad. (Credit: Courtesy)

Army Sgt. Anthony Venetz (left) and 1st Lt. Gabriel ‘Buddy’ Gengler, who went to school together at Shoreham-Wading River High School, during a chance meeting in Baghdad. (Credit: Courtesy)

It’s fairly safe to say that when military personnel are deployed overseas they believe that if tragedy strikes their loved ones will be taken care of.

The U.S. Army takes many steps to ensure that life insurance policies are updated before deployment, for example. Beneficiaries are verified; the ‘i’ is dotted, the ‘t’ — like the fingers of the soldiers and their loved ones — is crossed.  (more…)

07/26/14 10:00am
07/26/2014 10:00 AM
Garbage piled high on Oak Avenue in Flanders. (Credit: barbaraellen Koch)

Garbage piled high on Oak Avenue in Flanders. (Credit: barbaraellen Koch)

Just over two years ago, we called on Southampton Town to create a garbage district in Flanders, Riverside and Northampton. And now Southampton Town is calling on residents in the area to make the decision themselves(more…)

07/25/14 7:00am
07/25/2014 7:00 AM
Governor Andrew Cuomo. (Credit: NYS Executive Chamber)

Governor Andrew Cuomo. (Credit: NYS Executive Chamber)

An effort by Governor Andrew Cuomo and his running mate to establish the Women’s Equality Party line sounds great in theory. Who doesn’t stand for equality? And rallying any group for a common cause is something that should be celebrated in a democratic society.  (more…)

07/18/14 7:00am
07/18/2014 7:00 AM

The end of the 631 area code is approaching for some of us here in Suffolk County.

While the arguments surrounding the pros and cons of both possible solutions now being weighed by the North American Numbering Plan Administration may seem trivial, this is actually an important issue that can change how residents in the county are identified.  (more…)

07/17/14 7:00am
07/17/2014 7:00 AM

News that the town is reviving its long-dormant Anti-Bias Task Force is well-received. While bias against our neighbors is something that shouldn’t require a task force — racism is a senseless concept to begin with — it is heartening to know there are people in Riverhead who feel compelled enough to inform the community that crimes based on race and other forms of bias do, unfortunately, happen in our town. And they shouldn’t.

(more…)