Riverhead School District

Riverhead school board to target tax breaks for businesses

The Riverhead Board of Education voted Tuesday to create a board subcommittee to keep track of tax abatements granted to new businesses by the Riverhead Industrial Development Agency.

New board member Ron Fisher suggested the idea.

“I would like to establish a committee with school board members and residents alike that can look at how the Riverhead Industrial Development Agency affects taxpayers as it relates to our school taxes,” he said.

I think in some cases, it may be appropriate for us as a Board of Education to weigh in on some of the applications they’re reviewing.”

The school district covers parts of Riverhead, Southampton and Brookhaven towns.

“I think it’s great,” board president Greg Meyer said. “It’s been a hot-button topic.”

Board member Laurie Downs said the recent IDA ruling granting a 30-year payment in lieu of taxes to the 116-unit Riverview Lofts project is an example.

“It’s ridiculous,” she said. “It’s something that’s going to be passed on to our children.”

The board voted 6-0 to create the committee and named Mr. Fisher, Ms. Downs and board member Chris Dorr to serve on it.

About five years ago, Riverhead BOE members routinely attended IDA meetings to offer input, but eventually stopped. At one meeting in 2012, then-school board president Ann Cotten-DeGrasse got on her knees to emulate NFL quarterback Tim Tebow, saying she was “going to pray for the school district” because it is in “dire straits” with state aid cuts and a state-imposed 2 percent tax increase cap,” and couldn’t afford to have any more tax breaks.

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