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Supervisor’s tentative 2019 budget expands downtown policing

Riverhead Town Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith unveiled her first tentative budget as supervisor Friday, a $59.06 million spending plan that includes a 3.4 percent increase in the property tax levy.

The tentative budget calls for a 3.9 increase in spending and a 2.7 percent increase in the tax rate.

For someone whose property is assessed at $50,000 — which is about a $360,000 market rate — that amounts to about $72 more in town taxes.

Those numbers apply to the three town-wide districts in the town — general, highway and street lighting.

Overall town spending, which includes special districts like water and sewer districts, recycling and garbage districts and the Business Improvement District, increased 2.1 percent.

The budget stays within the state’s two-percent budget cap, Ms. Jens-Smith said in her budget message. The state allows a variety of exemptions, such as tax base growth, that allow municipalities to exceed the two-percent.

“While I realize that every issue of concern cannot be addressed in a one year budget cycle, I have prepared a budget that seeks to address areas that will form the building blocks for our continued ability to improve the quality of life for all residents and businesses in Riverhead,” the supervisor wrote.

The supervisor said her proposed budget supports the “downtown policing plan” presented by Police Chief David Hegermiller earlier this year.

That plan creates another foot patrol section in downtown Riverhead. The budget includes two new police officer positions for this.

The budget includes another full-time code enforcement officer as well, she said. Earlier this year, the town hired a part-time sign inspector for 60 days to enforce the sign code. The supervisor said this made a “huge difference.”

The budget also includes additional staff for the town water district.

Ms. Jens-Smith said her proposed budget also includes software improvements designed to improve transparency and efficiency, by improving communications between town departments. The budget also allows for improvements to cyber security and disaster recovery, she said.

“The 2019 budget reflects my commitment to help improve the quality of life for our residents,” Ms. Jens-Smith said.

The proposed budget will be discussed at an upcoming Town Board work session.

The board is required to adopt a preliminary budget — which could be the same or it could have changes — and must be the subject of a public hearing.

The final budget must be adopted by the Town Board by Nov. 20, under state law.

The proposed budget includes no salary increases for elected officials.

CORRECTION: The article originally said the budget would be discussed at the Oct. 4 work session. It will be discussed a future work session, but the date is not yet decided.

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