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Town Board to vote on $1M in budget adjustments Tuesday

The Riverhead Town Board plans to vote on  almost $1 million worth of budget adjustments at its meeting Tuesday, changes that Supervisor Sean Walter said will eliminate the bulk of the town’s 2015 budget deficit. 

The board discussed the transfers at Thursday’s work session, where it reviewed resolutions for the upcoming regular meeting.

The proposed resolution would transfer $973,700 of unspent funds from the 2015 budget, Mr. Walter said.

The current spending plan — which did not rely on using surplus funds to lower taxes, as the town has done in prior years — did include two large revenue expectations which still haven’t come through.

One was $613,400 the town expected to get from a county grant regarding landfill costs and the other was $750,000 in anticipated rent payments from leasing part of the Enterprise Park at Calverton to a solar energy company.

Most of the latter figure still has a chance of coming through before the end of the year, as the town has a pending deal in place to lease 45 acres of town land at EPCAL to Hecate Energy for $700,000 in year one. The town and Hecate are waiting for LIPA to move the project forward, officials said.

The year-one lease amount is front-loaded, and in subsequent years, the lease amount will be $450,000 per year, but will include cost-of-living increases.

The town discovered that the $613,400 in county money wasn’t coming before 2015 even began, but after the budget was adopted.

The $973,700 in unspent money will cover that gap, Mr. Walter said.

“The reality is this,” Mr. Walter said. “We knew there were problems with the budget. We had done our level best to not let anybody spend a dime over the past year, knowing that we would probably come up short at the end of the year. So early in October, I told [Finance Administrator Bill Rothaar] to start wiping out everybody’s accounts that they haven’t spent, so we can cover our shortfalls.”

He said about 75 percent of the budget deficit has now been covered.

The biggest items among the unspent funds were police costs, as the town didn’t replace two officers who left.

The town saved $200,000 in police salaries and $220,000 in police hospitalization costs.

The biggest items in the category were funds transferred to cover police termination pay, overtime pay and sick and vacation buybacks, which totaled $622,000.

• The Town Board also plans to vote Tuesday on a key revenue source for the 2016 budget, which involved  a big hike in the amounts charged for rental permit fees.

The town has required rental permits since the 1990s, but hasn’t increased the fees since. The board held a hearing on doing so early in 2015, but never followed through.

The latest proposed fee increase would go from $150 to $300 for a one-unit rental;  from $200 to $400 for a two-unit;  from $250 to $500 for a three-unit; from $325 to $650 for four-unit; and from $500 to $1,000 for more than four units.

In addition, the $50 for each unit in excess of five will be increased to $100.

The board plans to hold a public hearing on the proposal at 7 p.m. Dec. 15.

The 2016 budget includes $80,000 in additional revenue that’s expected to come from the fee hikes.

The proposal, which is expected to go to a public hearing, also will eliminate hotels from having to pay the rental permit fee.

News-Review reporter Tim Gannon reported live from the meeting. Read his blog recap below.

Live Blog Riverhead Town Board work session 11-25-2015