The Riverhead Town Board unanimously adopted its 2020 budget Tuesday night, one day before the state-mandated deadline, amending the preliminary budget presented by Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith.
The budget includes $105,500 from the capital improvement fund that will be used to add second code enforcement officer. Councilman Tim Hubbard had proposed adding the position and initially called for $135,000 to be used from the capital improvement fund to target overcrowded and unsafe housing.
The addition of one code enforcement officer was already included in Ms. Jens-Smith’s preliminary budget.
Mr. Hubbard said at last Thursday’s work session that he agreed to eliminate $30,000 for a part-time paralegal and put that money back in capital projects reserves to see if the position was need in the next six months.
Ms. Jens-Smith previously said that a paralegal currently in the town attorney’s office no longer handles special event permits, which are now handled by the town clerk’s office. That will allow the paralegal more time to work on code enforcement. She had previously cautioned the board about using the capital reserve fund because the board recently learned of new unfunded mandates from the state that would go into effect next year.
The budget calls for a 2.5% tax levy hike and a 1.17% increase in spending. The proposed budget also increases the tax rate by 2.58%, bringing total spending to $59.8 million and total funding to $100.4 million.
Councilwoman Jodi Giglio had requested to add $30,000 to the Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance Crops. budget to have a volunteer and an ambulance stationed in Jamesport during the busy summer months. That proposed amendment was not adopted.
Councilwoman Catherine Kent proposed for $10,000 to be taken from the office of the supervisor and directed toward “professional development and education.”
That resolution was also not adopted.
“It’s going to be in personnel department’s line in the budget,” Ms. Kent said. “I think that it’s very important to keep our employees current, educated and well-trained. And we’ve had numerous requests for professional development from different departments, from the water department, justice court and several other departments.”
Ms. Jens-Smith supported the resolution, but the remaining Republican board members did not. Councilman James Wooten said he wasn’t sure he was comfortable taking funds from the office of the supervisor when the $10,000 can likely come from a different line.
“I’m certainly for training,” he said. “I think the $10,000 could probably be found out of a different line.”
The supervisor said that she had money in her budget when she had a part-time employee working for her, but didn’t have that employee last year.
“So, I actually used it to do some renovation in the hallway,” she said. “It didn’t go toward salary, so I felt that it didn’t need to be – it wasn’t essential to the running of the office.”
Employee training, she said, is an important use.
WITH TIM GANNON