Guest Spot: Council members on budget process

In order to set the record straight and clear up any confusion with regard to the budget process, let us present the following timeline and information.

Jodi Giglio, George Gabrielsen, James Wooten.
TIM GANNON FILE PHOTO | Jodi Giglio, George Gabrielsen and James Wooten.

Town Board members saw a PowerPoint presentation of the supervisor’s tentative budget on Sept. 28. At the Oct. 2 Town Board meeting, the tentative budget was introduced and presented to the public and at this same meeting a resolution to authorize a Nov. 7 public hearing for the adoption of the preliminary budget was presented to Town Board members.

The Town Board did not have an opportunity to discuss budget matters with department heads or even review the budget until after the tentative budget was presented to the public.

The same day it was presented to the public it was presented to the members of the Town Board. We are working together now, as your representatives and as liaisons to various departments and advisory groups, to review what was presented to us so that we may be able to continue to provide the level of services to meet the needs of our residents.

We did not know what positions, if any, were being eliminated and we were not asked what projects were important to us so we could be included in the budget process.

Town Board members have been diligently working with department heads and staff to get a clear understanding of what is necessary to accomplish the basic needs of town government. There were delays in these meetings due to the hurricane and availability of information.

We have agreed on much and will be approaching the amendments to the supervisor’s budget in a unique way this year: Each change to the budget will be a separate resolution so that each board member can vote on the amendments that are important to each member and so that the public knows where each board member stands.

In Southampton Town, the supervisor set dates for open meetings with the board to discuss budget amendments. Resolution 2012-927 sets the dates for these discussions. In Southold, as reported by Times/Review Newsgroup, the budget was presented to the Town Board at the Sept. 11 work session, prior to formal presentation and filing of the tentative budget.

In Southampton and Southold, the town boards are still considering amendments to the budgets that were presented to the public and anticipate more changes before Final Budgets are adopted on Nov. 20.

The Riverhead Town Board would like to see amendments to the preliminary budget. After review of the tentative budget, the members of the Town Board met with department heads to determine their budget needs and discuss possible cost saving measures but scrutinized figures and calculations in the tentative budget.

The Town Board found significant errors in the budget and met with the financial administrator several times to address these errors. The Town Board will continue to scrutinize the budget, work to correct each error and ask questions of the financial administrator and department heads to make sure that the final budget is accurate and best meets the needs of town government and serves the people of this town.

We are proposing a public work session to discuss any amendments.

The authors are three councilpeople who help make up the five-member Riverhead Town Board.