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12/18/14 11:45am
12/18/2014 11:45 AM
Suffolk County Executive Steven Bellone speaks during the press conference at Southampton Town Hall Wednesday afternoon.  (Credit: Carrie Miller)

Suffolk County Executive Steven Bellone speaks during the press conference at Southampton Town Hall Wednesday afternoon. (Credit: Carrie Miller)

East End police departments and villages across Suffolk County will benefit from a collective $6 million in sales tax revenue over the next three years, thanks to a new agreement announced by County Executive Steven Bellone during a press conference at Southampton Town Hall Wednesday afternoon.

The deal is one step in the right direction for securing a fair split in sales tax revenue for the twin forks — which aren’t policed by Suffolk County Police Department — a budgeting issue Legislator Jay Schneiderman (I-Montuak) said he had been working on for more than a decade.

(more…)

12/17/14 9:30am
12/17/2014 9:30 AM
Planning director Rick Hanley looking over Lowes' site plan for the former Suffolk Life building on Route 58 in 2009. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

Planning director Rick Hanley looking over Lowes’ site plan for the former Suffolk Life building on Route 58 in 2009. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

The Riverhead Town Board abolished the planning director position on Tuesday night, which was held by Rick Hanley for more than 25 years.

The Town Board voted 3-2 to eliminate the position at the end of the year, with Councilwoman Jodi Giglio and Councilman John Dunleavy voting in opposition of the measure. (more…)

11/19/14 7:51am
11/19/2014 7:51 AM

 

Councilman John Dunleavy (left) and Sean Walter at a previous work session. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch, file)

Councilman John Dunleavy (left) and Sean Walter at a previous work session. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch, file)

The tentative 2015 Riverhead Town budget proposed by Supervisor Sean Walter at the end of September is likely to become the adopted 2015 budget automatically on Thursday, as a motion to vote on adopting the budget failed at Tuesday’s Town Board meeting.

Under state law, the deadline to approve a final budget is Nov. 20, and if the board doesn’t vote to make any changes to the supervisor’s budget, it automatically becomes the final budget at that point. (more…)

09/13/14 9:00am
09/13/2014 9:00 AM
Town Board members Jim Wooten and John Dunleavy, left, and Supervisor Sean Walter at last week's Town Board meeting. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

Town Board members Jim Wooten and John Dunleavy, left, and Supervisor Sean Walter at last week’s Town Board meeting. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

With details emerging on Riverhead Town’s 2015 fiscal situation — a grim one, to say the least — town political leaders will have to put their money where their mouths are as they work to close a $1.5 million budget gap(more…)

09/03/14 7:21pm
09/03/2014 7:21 PM
Town Board members Jim Wooten and John Dunleavy, left, and Supervisor Sean Walter at Wednesday night's Town Board meeting. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

Town Board members Jim Wooten and John Dunleavy, left, and Supervisor Sean Walter at Wednesday night’s Town Board meeting. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

The town won’t be taking out a $6 million line of credit to cover a $4 million structural hole in its general fund budget next year, nor will it be piercing a state-mandated tax cap to help plug the hole — meaning, cuts are on the way.

After a split Town Board tabled a measure in mid-August which would have permitted the town to borrow against future land sales at Enterprise Park at Calverton, Councilman Jim Wooten — the deciding vote on the bridge loan — said on Wednesday that the move doesn’t have his support, and voted against the measure at tonight’s meeting. (more…)

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.

08/20/14 4:09pm
08/20/2014 4:09 PM
Supervisor Sean Walter and Councilwoman Jodi Giglio at Tuesday night's Town Board meeting. (Credit: Paul Squire)

Supervisor Sean Walter and Councilwoman Jodi Giglio at Tuesday night’s Town Board meeting. (Credit: Paul Squire)

The Riverhead Town Board’s anticipated vote on authorizing a $6 million, two-year bridge loan to stave off a double-digit tax increase next year was put on hold Tuesday, because four board members are split on the issue and the fifth was absent from the meeting.

Supervisor Sean Walter said that without the loan, the town will face a 12.5 percent tax increase next year and that cutting $4 million — the amount of the town’s general fund deficit — would involve eliminating about 60 town positions. (more…)