The Riverhead school board voted Tuesday night to accept a $10,000 donation from Riverhead Councilwoman Jodi Giglio — a payment in lieu of property taxes that were never assessed to her over the course of several years after improvements had been done to her Baiting Hollow home without proper permits.
Ms. Giglio, the Republican candidate for Riverhead Town supervisor in this fall’s elections, says this donation represents the last of the tax money she owes for improvements she and her husband, Mike, made to their home without permits, some dating back to 2001, that were not included by the town in their assessment for property taxes.
But Supervisor Sean Walter, who was not nominated by his party and is challenging Ms. Giglio in a primary for the position he now holds, said he believes more money is owed and that special districts like the fire district, street lighting district and highway district aren’t getting the money they were due.
“It took a primary in 2013 for her to get her permits and it took a second primary in 2015 to get her to pay back part of her outstanding taxes,” Mr. Walter said. “This goes to her judgment and her integrity. I don’t think it’s appropriate to have someone like Ms. Giglio in office who doesn’t have the judgment to understand that you need permits and you have to pay your taxes.”
Superintendent Nancy Carney said at Tuesday’s school board meeting that the donation will go toward purchasing iPads for students.
Laverne Tennenberg, chair of the town assessors, said her office did provide a breakdown of the total amount the Giglios owed, but she didn’t recall the amount. She suggested asking Ms. Giglio for that number.
In addition to the school donation, Ms. Giglio paid $3,000 to the town in January. Officially, theses payments are considered donations because, by law, the town can go back only one year in collecting taxes owed on improvements that weren’t caught.
“She’s under no obligation to pay any back taxes beyond the one year,” said Ms. Tennenberg.
“That’s it,” Ms. Giglio said. “That’s the back taxes for the school district from 2001 to 2012, when it was discovered that I had the finished basement. The total I’ve paid back is $13,000 — $10,000 to the school and $3,000 to the town. I said I would pay it this year and it’s paid this year. I’m a woman of my word and I have integrity.”
Ms. Tennenberg had said in a January 2014 interview that she believed the total amount the Giglios owe was around $15,000.
At that time, the first year the additions to the Giglio home were assessed by the town, the couple’s property tax bill increased by 43 percent, from $12,051 to $17,222, largely because of an additional $2,317 “pro rata” payment on the money owed from the previous year.
The supervisor’s primary this fall pits Ms. Giglio against Mr. Walter for the Republican line, although both will be on the ballot in November regardless of the result, since Mr. Walter also has the Conservative line and Ms. Giglio has the Independence Party line.
Anthony Coates, a former political adviser to Mr. Walter, ran an unsuccessful Republican primary against Ms. Giglio and Councilman John Dunleavy for town council in 2013 — when the issue of Ms. Giglio’s building permits first came to light. Mr. Coates is now running for supervisor on the Democratic and Working Families lines.
“Only Councilwoman Giglio would feel she should now be rewarded for doing what every hard-working Riverhead taxpayer does in the first place,” Mr. Coates said.
He called the donation “political theatrics.”