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Without a vote, Riverhead’s 2019 budget goes into effect

Riverhead Town’s $59 million 2019 budget took effect automatically Tuesday night as the Town Board failed to submit any changes to the tentative budget submitted by Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith at the end of September.

But Councilwoman Jodi Giglio said she planned to present changes and was disappointed to see that no resolution to adopt the budget was on the agenda.

Under state law, the town supervisor must present a “tentative” budget by Oct. 1. After that, a budget hearing must be held and the final budget must be adopted by Nov. 20, which was Tuesday.

If no changes are approved or voted on, the original budget goes into effect automatically, and the tentative budget becomes the final budget.

“I thought there was supposed to be a budget resolution,” Ms. Giglio asked the supervisor at the end of Tuesday’s board meeting.

“I presented my budget,” Ms. Jens-Smith said to Ms. Giglio. “If you wanted a resolution [to make changes], that would have come from you.”

Ms. Jens-Smith said she didn’t receive any resolutions seeking changes to the budget.

Ms. Giglio said board members did ask to put the budget up for a vote after last Thursday’s work session.

“But you would put it through as a resolution,” Ms. Jens-Smith repeated.

“We don’t put resolutions through,” Ms. Giglio said. “The resolutions go through your office.”

Ms. Giglio said she was disappointed the board is not voting on the budget because there are issues that concern her, such as a $1.2 million deficit in the sewer district, and other changes she felt should be included, including using $225,000 in additional police salaries that Councilman Jim Wooten “found” in the budget to hire more buildings and grounds employees.

She reiterated the council people don’t submit resolutions, they request them from the supervisor’s office.

Ms. Giglio said she wanted to vote on the budget, and she would have voted no.

Ms. Jens-Smith asked if Ms. Giglio provided any detail as to how to deal with the $1.2 million sewer deficit.

The board discussed changes to the budget at a Nov. 1 work session but no resolutions to change the budget were submitted, the supervisor said.

The meeting ultimately ended with no vote on the budget.

“It’s an irresponsible budget,” Ms. Giglio said.

“Just saying no is irresponsible,” the supervisor responded.

The now final 2019 budget calls for a 2.7 percent increase in the tax rate; a 3.42 percent increase in the tax levy; and a 3.9 percent increase in spending in the three town-wide districts that all residents pay into — general fund, highway and street lighting.

Someone with property assessed at $50,000 — the equivalent of about a $360,000 market value — would pay about $72 more in town-wide taxes.

Other town districts, such as water, sewage and garbage — which are not paid by all residents — bring overall town spending in 2019 to $97.6 million, of which $53.8 million is funded through taxes.

Town taxes account for about 30 percent of the overall property tax bill in Riverhead, with school district taxes amounting for about 60 percent of the property tax bill.

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