Town will cover employee wage hikes

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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