Taxes to go up 2.4 percent in Walter’s proposed budget

TIM GANNON FILE PHOTO | Sean Walter giving his 'State of the Town' at Calverton Links.

The town tax rate will increase by 2.36 percent under the tentative 2012 Riverhead Town Budget released by Supervisor Sean Walter on Friday.

The $51.6 million budget also raises spending by 3.3 percent and raises the tax levy by about $1 million or 2.86 percent.

The tax levy is permitted to exceed the new state-imposed 2 percent tax cap because of exemptions in the cap pertaining to pension cost increases and tax levy increases related to new development, Mr. Walter said.

“We were allowed under the cap to increase the tax levy by about 3.6 percent because of the exemptions and we only increased it by about 2.9 percent,” he said Friday. “We were $75,000 under what was authorized by the cap.”

He said pension costs alone made up about $1.4 million of the $1.66 million spending increase.

Someone with property assessed at $50,000, which equates to a real market value of about $326,157, would pay about $53 more in town taxes under the proposal.

Mr. Walter pointed out that he cut spending in the current year’s budget, and that in his two years as supervisor, spending would only increase by 1.75 percent if his proposed budget is adopted unchanged.

“We’re on the right course,” he said Friday.

As previously reported in The News-Review, Mr. Walter is not proposing any cuts in staffing at Town Hall in his 2012 budget, and he is proposing to offset taxes by using $2.6 million in reserve funds.

The town last year, in developing the 2011 budget, cut six full time positions and seven part-time positions. The 2011 budget also used $2.6 million in reserve funding to offset taxes.

Mr. Walter said the town used $5.2 million in reserve funds to offset taxes in the 2010 budget, the last one developed under the prior Town Board.

Mr. Walter said Riverhead will still have about $7.9 million left in reserves to start 2012, but he feels the town has to stop using reserves in future budgets.

Among some of the larger revenues in the budget, Mr. Walter’s proposal anticipates an increase in building department fees, from $1.16 million to $1.3 million. Justice court fees also are anticipated to increase, from $559,800 to $588,300.

Mortgage tax revenues are projected to remain at $900,000. Site plan fees are projected to increase from $75,000 to $130,000, but planning board fees are projected to drop from $150,000 to $20,000.

Mr. Walter said he plans to discuss the budget with the full Town Board at work session Thursday.

Under state law, the supervisor must released a tentative town budget before Oct. 1, and the full Town Board must hold a public hearing on the budget and adopt a final budget by Nov. 20.

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