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Featured Letter: Family Community Life Center is ‘too costly’

An artist rendering of the main atrium at the Family Community Life Center's recreational and other facilities.
An artist rendering of the main atrium at the Family Community Life Center’s recreational and other facilities.

Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter is right when he said First Baptist Church’s Family Community Life Center “is about to change Riverhead for decades to come.”

What he omitted is the added housing, which would include 125 apartments. That housing is tax-free to the church because it is 501(c)(3) tax-exempt. What does that mean? All education costs, police, fire, lighting, etc., will be paid by the taxpayer, leading to potentially huge increases in taxes and/or cuts to school programs.

Riverhead School District spent $21,214 to educate one child per year in 2011-12, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. That amount will only increase. If each housing unit had one child to educate, $21,214 x 146 = $3,097,244 per year. Again, a free ride for the church, but costly to the taxpayer.

The church claimed it will make payment in lieu of taxes payments. PILOT is a joke; it’s a promise to pay something. That promise can be easily broken with no legal consequences. The increased school spending for the church proposal will burst the tax cap. I doubt 60 percent of the school district voters will pass yearly double-digit tax increases. The school board will then have to look for $3.3 million of cuts. Why won’t the Town Board or the church address these fiscal points? Prove me wrong.

They won’t, because they know the truth: This proposal will cost the taxpayers a lot of money. Perhaps it’s time for the state Attorney General and IRS to investigate if this proposed rental property violates the church’s “nonprofit” tax status and its political contributions.

If the church permanently drops the housing element I’ll lend my support and vote. Until then, no way. The Town Board members have previously stated that they have no control over the schools portion of your property tax bill. Well, they do now.

The author is a Riverhead resident.