Guest Spot: Finally, the facts about Riverhead’s finances

A certified audit by independent accountants showing Riverhead’s financial condition as of Dec. 31, 2009, is complete and available online at riverheadli.com. It establishes that when Supervisor Sean Walter took office on Jan. 1, 2010, an unrestricted general fund surplus of $8,060,427 existed and the town’s governmental funds had “$15,349,623 unreserved and available to meet the town’s current and future needs.”

The credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s also recently announced it is continuing the town’s strong AA+ credit rating, the highest credit rating ever held by the town and achieved during my time as supervisor.

Hearing those two news items I could not help but smile.

The then newly elected Supervisor Walter spent most of 2010 semi-hysterical about the town’s financial condition, constantly whining that Riverhead was in the midst of a great financial crisis that he blamed alternately on “the previous supervisor” and “the previous administration.”

Last November, in a frenzy over finances, he fired a fire marshal and other longtime town employees.

Now, in September 2011, we finally have the truth as confirmed by an independent audit and an independent credit rating agency review.

Ronald Reagan said “facts are stubborn things.” These are the stubborn facts.

• The principal reason Riverhead had ample surplus fund balances on Dec. 31, 2009, as now certified, was that during my administration we added $10,875,000 to the town’s reserves, ($7,500,000 from non-refundable contract deposits from Riverhead Resorts; $375,000 from non-refundable contract deposits from Rechler; $2,000,000 from successful settlement of litigation against LIPA; and $1,000,000 through thrifty management resulting in year-end surpluses).

• Riverhead received two upgrades from national credit rating agencies while I was supervisor, and on Dec. 31, 2009, Riverhead enjoyed its highest credit rating ever.

• The six budgets I proposed while in office contained tax rate increases averaging less than the rate of inflation. My 2005 budget proposed a tax rate decrease.

• Each of my proposed budgets used less of the town reserves than had the previous one. All used less than the previous supervisor had.

• Not one of my proposed budgets was adopted without the Republican majority’s increasing it over my objection. For example, my final budget proposed in September 2009 was adopted by the Town Board on Nov. 20, 2009, after the Republican majority had added $1.5 million to it.

In view of the certification of a large surplus when I left office and the renewal of the town’s strong credit rating achieved while I was in office, how can Mr. Walter explain his hysteria about town finances? His hysteria reached a crescendo last November with the adoption of a 2011 budget featuring the firing of town employees, including the fire marshal, and the highest town tax increase on Long Island.

Did Mr. Walter’s inaccurate statements about the town’s financial condition result from deliberate deceit or simple stupidity? You choose. There is a better way to handle the Town’s finances — honestly, openly, truthfully and with respect for the intelligence of the taxpayers.

Mr. Cardinale is a former Riverhead supervisor who is running as a Democrat for his previous post, now held by Republican Sean Walter. Mr. Cardinale is a Jamesport attorney.