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Public hearing on Riverhead Town’s 2020 budget draws little interest

While budget issues such as code enforcement levels may have been a hot topic before the election, only one person spoke at Riverhead Town’s 2020 budget hearing Wednesday, the day after Election Day.

The budget hearing has traditionally been held the day after Election Day, although that date is not a requirement.

Councilman Tim Hubbard said he still plans to propose including $135,000 in funding taken from a capital improvement fund to add another code enforcement officer (in addition to the one proposed by the supervisor) and a new part-time code enforcement clerk and a new part-time paralegal to enable the town to take more code enforcement cases to State Supreme Court, which carries greater penalties than town justice court.

Councilwoman Jodi Giglio said the Town Board plans to add $30,000 to the Riverhead Ambulance District budget so they can staff the Jamesport ambulance barn during peak times to provide better coverage of the eastern part of town.

Keith Lewin, the president of the Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance Corp’s board of directors, was the only member of the public to speak at the hearing.

The corps is under a contract for service with the Riverhead Ambulance District, which is a tax district overseen by the Town Board.

Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith, who lost her bid for reelection on Tuesday, and Councilman Jim Wooten, whose term ends at the end of this year, were not present for the hearing Wednesday.

Ms. Jens-Smith’s tentative budget, released on Sept. 30, called for a spending increase of 1.17%; a tax levy increase of 2.5% and a tax rate increase of 2.58% for the three taxing districts paid into by all town taxpayers.

For a home assessed at $50,000 — which equates to a market value of $408,858 — the increase amounts to an additional $71.55 in town taxes for those three districts.

While spending in those three districts comes to $59.7 million, overall spending, including special districts that are not paid into by all town residents comes to $100.3 million.

Under state law, the Town Board must adopt a final budget by Nov. 20, or else the supervisor’s budget, plus any changes made by resolution, automatically becomes the adopted budget.

In recent years, the Town Board has not made any changes to the supervisor’s budget and has simply let it become the final budget automatically.

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