Tax questions need answers
With the recent surge of letters on the school budget, it may be interesting to take a look at the underlying numbers of public services, such as the schools, the library and the fire department. There are probably lots of good answers but these questions need to be aired.
In Riverhead, according the school district website’s last public data, there are 4,712 pupils. This means that it costs us $21,540 per student, per year.
There were a total of 379 teachers. If they were paid each $100,000 it would amount to $38 million. If the budget is $101 million, where is the money going? Who is scrutinizing and challenging what the district does? It is a lot of money and it is not clear how it is spent.
Another example is the library. They asked for $3.8 million, if I recall correctly, as an operating budget. This amounts to about $125 for each person residing in Riverhead, or about $500 per household. If one considers that a small minority of the citizens of Riverhead uses the library, the cost per user is likely to exceed $1,000 per year. Can we do better at a lower cost to the taxpayer?
Finally, what about the fire department that built a monument for $18 million with taxpayer money? Of course we need a fire department, as we need schools and libraries. But we are told that the fire department building includes amenities that have little to do with firefighting, such as a very luxurious brass-clad fully functioning bar and an amphitheater for several hundred people. And it seems most fire vehicles ordered by the Riverhead Fire Department are the expensive, custom-made-to-use-in-parades kind, rather than the cost-effective standard models.
What is at stake here is that these separate public services have no accountability and no supervision. Yet they account for a large part of our tax bills. There has to be a better and less expensive way to provide these same services. These are questions that need answers. We value what each of these services do but we need to have their finances scrutinized as we all do in our households. The free access to our checkbooks must stop.
Keep it positive
For some time now your paper has disturbed me with the sensational, negative headlines it is posting on its front page. It started some time ago, when you printed a photo of ladies’ panties hanging in trees in Flanders. It continues week to week, displaying negative images of Riverhead. While many of the images are actually Southampton Town, I love Riverhead. It is a beautiful place to live. It is beautiful farms, gorgeous beaches, award-winning restaurants, golf courses, schools, unmatched wineries, amazing parks, many different cultures and a shopping mecca. Please stop sensationalizing the negative aspects of Riverhead, many of which aren’t even Riverhead Town!
Elisabeth Lapham did so much
I read last evening the obituary of Elisabeth Lapham of Wading River, published in your May 12 edition. The death notes of us who have survived into our 80s and 90s are often unable to contain all noteworthy lifetime accomplishments usually not known by younger generations of readers. So it is with Betty Lapham.
She was much more than “a local historian affiliated with the Wading River Historical Society.” As one of the founders of the society in 1947 (the same year her husband, attorney Edwin Lapham was a founder of the Wading River Volunteer Fire Department), Betty was an active member who led the successful effort to establish the society’s museum in a preserved 1828 Wading River home.
During the 1970s and 1980s she was one of the leading historians of the entire Town of Riverhead. Betty was chairman of the five-member group of historians who authored and compiled the 1976 Riverhead Bicentennial Album published by the Town of Riverhead containing historical text and archival photographs of buildings located in each hamlet within the town’s boundaries.
The Suffolk County Tercentenary Commission chose Betty Lapham to write its 1983 pamphlet, A History of Riverhead Town, published in connection with the celebration of the completion of the county’s third century.
She also wrote documents specific to Wading River’s history, including the location and history of existing 18th and 19th century dwellings, one of which was the very house where she and Ed raised their family and in which she died on May 5.
Echoes from the past mentioned in the obituary is a compilation of Betty’s historical columns published in The Community Journal (Wading River-Shoreham area) from 1978 through 1990.
Betty’s historical writings were among the sources for my research and writing of Riverhead: The Halcyon Years 1861-1919 published in 2005.
She will be missed by all who are interested in the rich history of our community and are grateful to those who recount it for the benefit of all.
New York State Supreme Court Justice (retired)
A job well done
I would like to thank all the sponsors and volunteers who participated in the 2011 Riverhead Town Beach Clean Up. Without your support, approximately 17 miles of Long Island Sound beaches, from Wading River to Hallockville State Park, would not be ready for the summer season.
Thank you Bagel Lovers, Riverhead Beverage, Snowflake Ice Cream, Dunkin Donuts, Sid Harveys, East End Surf Fishing Club, L.I. Offroaders Club, Sound Park Heights Association, Willow Ponds on the Sound, East End Disability Associates, Riverhead’s Highway Department and Department of Parks and Recreation, New York State Parks and all the volunteers who helped to make this years event a huge success. Please help us to keep our beaches and town beautiful year round!
East End Surf Fishing Club