Featured Letter: Disband the Riverhead IDA

IDAs, or Industrial Development Agencies, were formed to create and hold jobs but, in the end, how many jobs do they really create? And what is the cost?

Riverhead has [offered] and is offering tax breaks to businesses that had already broken ground in our community and filed site plans to move here. Is it smart to give away tax revenue to companies that don’t even need the extra incentive? Every time the IDA gives a tax break, a Riverhead taxpayer has to make up the difference.

Supervisor Sean Walter has said the huge buildings slated to be built downtown will receive 100 percent IDA tax breaks. Yet, they will need and use our town police and fire resources, parking district spaces and school services.

Each time this board grants a tax break, it essentially assesses a tax increase to the people of Riverhead. It is another example of the current administration’s unproductive stance on tax breaks. I believe our town would be better off with every business in town paying their fair share.

Other than Riverhead, only three towns in Suffolk County have an IDA. The other towns have populations five to 10 times greater than ours. They have many residents to shoulder the IDA tax breaks, making them sustainable. Here in Riverhead our population is dramatically smaller, leading to Riverhead residents forcibly shouldering a much heavier burden when tax breaks are granted.

We have to do what’s good for the people of Riverhead. Under the current administration these breaks are handed out like candy on Halloween. There are tax breaks downtown and tax breaks on Route 58. There are tax breaks at EPCAL and tax breaks around town; and tax breaks for hotels and restaurants and doctor’s offices. It seems there are tax breaks for anyone who just merely asks.

Eventually you have to ask yourself who is going to pay the taxes in this town? And that finger seems to point directly to the already overburdened homeowners and small businesses of Riverhead.

It is only good jobs and a living wage that will bring Riverhead a sustainable and vibrant economy. It’s only businesses that pay for themselves that will ultimately enrich our economy and our community. I believe it is time to disband the Riverhead Industrial Development Agency.

Laura Jens-Smith is the Democratic candidate for Riverhead Town supervisor.