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Riverhead Library budget will pierce cap, but not raise taxes

Riverhead Free Library’s proposed 2019 budget will pierce the state’s 2 percent increase cap — but residents shouldn’t expect an increase in taxes.

A clerical error is to blame, according to library director Kerrie McMullen-Smith. 

“When we filed our information with the state comptroller’s office for the proposed budget, we were notified that we inadvertently pierced the cap for 2018-2019,” she said Friday, adding that the error was not caught right away because the library switched accounting firms last year.

“We didn’t want to raise the levy this year, so we reworked the budget and kept the levy the same,” she said.

The levy will remain at $3,812,557.

The overall operating budget is slated to increase by about 2.6 percent, from $3.9 million to $4.1 million, and reflects trends seen at the library, Ms. McMullen-Smith said. That increase will be funded largely through a transfer of $101,939 in unassigned funds, $87,128 of which remains from last year’s levy.

“Checkouts for physical materials are down because more people are using our downloadable materials,” she said. “That determines where the money is put.”

Additionally, she said, programming attendance has nearly tripled.

“People are really coming to the library to be entertained or learn something,” she said.

As a result, updates are being made to the library, including a new adult computer lab that was unveiled earlier this month. To keep pace with growing demand for senior programs, a new area for senior services is under construction, Ms. McMullen-Smith said.

“We’re definitely moving in a different direction. We have to change our budget based on the needs of community,” she said.

In addition to weighing in on the $4.1 million budget next month, residents will be asked to choose three new library trustees from a pool of 12 candidates.

Incumbent library trustees Dean Terchunian, Eileen Mackey and the Rev. Janet Wright are not seeking re-election to the nine-member board.

The 12 candidates are Marilyn Banks-Winter, Susan Bredinka, Barbara Federmack, Guy Fein, David John Friedrich, Ruth Nelson, Joanna Polistena, Paul Pysarenko, Keith Reichl, Annette Totten, Laura Rivela and Amy Wood.

A meet-the-candidates event will be held Monday, March 25, at 6:30 p.m. at the library.

The budget and trustee vote will take place at the library Tuesday, April 2, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Anyone registered to vote in the Riverhead School District can cast a ballot.

Voters will also be asked to weigh in on the budget for Baiting Hollow Free Library, which calls for $18,050 in taxes, up $5,675 from last year’s $12,375. That translates to an increase of roughly 20 cents for Baiting Hollow homeowners, according to budget materials. Baiting Hollow Free Library has a total operating budget of $19,375.

According to finance officer Davi Raio, this increase will help fund improvements including a ramp and railing for handicapped access and repairs to the ceiling and roof.

“All of these things are coming due,” Mr. Raio said Friday. “We can’t get it done in one year, but we can’t just let it sit there.”

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