09/25/14 4:50pm
09/25/2014 4:50 PM

R052611_RHTown_BE_R.jpgTown officials are saying that over the past week, they’ve filled a $1.6 million budget hole and solved the budget crisis, though filling that gap will rely heavily on one-time revenue sources that may or may not materialize.

The potential additional revenue means the budget Supervisor Sean Walter will release Tuesday is likely to include a 1.39 percent decrease in spending; along with a 2.08 percent increase in the tax levy and a 2.09 percent increase in the tax rate.  (more…)

11/05/13 4:30pm
11/05/2013 4:30 PM


With Town Hall closed for election day on Tuesday, the Riverhead Town Board’s first meeting of the month will be held on Wednesday afternoon, with public hearings slated on the proposed 2014 town budget and on the proposed Community Benefit zoning district that is needed for the First Baptist Church’s planned Family Community Life Center on Northville Turnpike.

The meeting starts at 2 p.m. in Town Hall.

• The $54.5 million preliminary budget that will be the subject of the public hearing calls for a 3 percent increase in spending and a 2.17 percent tax rate increase in the so-called townwide budget, which includes the three funds that all residents pay into. There are also a number of special sewer , water and garbage districts that vary by area, and those would bring total town spending up by three percent to $91.9 million, under the budget proposal.

Supervisor Sean Walter is proposing to use $3.5 million of town reserves to keep taxes down, leaving only about $3 million left in the reserve account. He says this is necessary because the town is paying $4 million in debt on the town landfill reclamation, which went over budget during the previous administration.

The proposed budget would not increase salaries for Town Board members. A final budget must be adopted by Nov. 20.

• The Community Benefit zoning district hearing is on a proposal to create an overlay zone that would allow a community center and workforce housing on land where the new zone is placed. In order to qualify for having this zone, a site would need to have 10 or more acres of land with at least 800 feet of frontage on a county or state highway, as well as public water and sewer connections.

First Baptist Church’s 13-acre campus on Northville Turnpike meets this criteria. The church is proposing a mixed-use project that would include an Olympic-size indoor swimming pool, a 25-seat theater and media center, adult and child day care services, an indoor walking track, gymnasium, fitness center, classroom space and 132 affordable apartment units intended as “workforce housing” for the area. First Baptist has been planning the Family Community Life Center for more than 25 years, and says the income from the apartments are needed to offset the costs of the community center, which would be open to the public.

The proposed zone only allows one unit of housing per acre, unless transferred development rights from farms, or affordable housing credits from open space purchases are used. The church is hoping to receive enough affordable housing open space credits from Suffolk County to make the project feasible. The county provides the credits at no charge, unlike the farmland development right program.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone last month pledged the county’s support of the project at a gathering in Riverhead, although he didn’t specifically mention the affordable housing credits.

The Nov. 6 meeting also has a public hearing on the annual Community Development Block Grant requests, which are distributed to local charities and non-profit organization.

09/28/13 10:00am
09/28/2013 10:00 AM
Sean Walter speech

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter delivering his annual ‘State of the Town’ speech this year in Calverton.

Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter is scheduled to unveil his tentative 2014 town budget in a 10 a.m. presentation at Town Hall Monday.

And, the supervisor said in an interview this week, he plans to use more than the $3.1 million in fund balance that was used last year to offset tax increases.

The reason for the additional use of surplus funds stems from a state comptroller’s audit of the town in March that faulted the way the town used administrative chargebacks from other departments to fund its general fund.

Changes to the chargebacks usage left the town general fund just under $1 million short in revenue. And though the budget proposes borrowing more than $3.1 million used in the current year’s budget, it won’t be a full $1 million more, Mr. Walter said.

“I don’t have the final number, but we were about $1 million behind from the audit on chargebacks,” he said.

The town has been using the fund balance, or surplus funds, to offset tax increases in its budget for at least a decade, with much of that money coming from land sales or contracts for land sales at the Enterprise Park in Calverton.

The town has appropriated fund balance amounts of $4.7 million in 2010, $2.6 million in 2011, $2.6 million in 2012, and $3.08 million in 2013 toward reducing the tax rate.

The tentative 2014 budget also will have to include a number to represent anticipated contractual agreements with the town’s two largest employee unions, the Civil Service Employees Association and the Police Benevolent Association, both of who are in negotiations for their 2014 contracts, Mr. Walter said.

During that same time, the so-called “town-wide” budget – which includes general fund, highway and street lighting, the three districts every property owner in town pays into – has increased by 4.6 percent, and is currently at $53.06 million, according to town records.

Mr. Walter wouldn’t disclose the proposed tax rate increase in his upcoming budget, but said it has to comply with the state’s two-percent tax cap.

That cap applies to tax levies, rather than tax rates, and includes some exemptions.

Since Mr. Walter and the current Town Board took office in January 2010, the “town-wide” budget , which includes general fund, highway and street lighting, the districts every property owner in town pays into , has increased by 4.6 percent, and is currently at $53.06 million, town records show.

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12/30/10 1:23pm
12/30/2010 1:23 PM

The Riverhead Town Board approved about 42 small budget transfers at its meeting Tuesday to cover the $151,154 in union employee salary “step” increases officials said were accidentally omitted from the adopted 2011 town budget in November.

The Civil Service Employees Association, the union representing most non-police town employees, had filed a grievance over the omissions.

Town finance administrator Bill Rothaar admitted at the time that the money was mistakenly left out of Supervisor Sean Walter’s proposed budget in October. But because the board could never muster the required three votes in favor of any one alternate budget by the Nov. 20 deadline, Mr. Walter’s budget became the adopted budget by default, under state law.

Step increases go beyond the employee’s normal base salary and differ from employee to employee based on criteria such as experience and years of service.

“If they do the right thing, we will withdraw the grievance,” CSEA president Matt Hattorff said in an interview last Thursday.
All but four of the proposed transfers are under $10,000, with the biggest being $26,079 from the general repairs section of the highway department budget.

“We’re taking it from a whole bunch of accounts,” Mr. Walter said at Thursday’s work session. “They’re all over the place.”

“This is the first meeting of the year and we’re already starting to move money around,” Councilman John Dunleavy said during Tuesday’s Town Board meeting. “It’s kind of strange.”

Normally, the town makes budget transfers toward the end of the year, when some funds are exhausted before the year’s end while others are underspent.

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