Riverhead Town, facing $1M revenue shortfall, plans cuts

Building and planning department fees are expected to be at least $1 million short in Riverhead Town’s 2020 budget, according to town finance administrator Bill Rothaar, who discussed the budget at last Thursday’s board work session. But Mr. Rothaar said that by not filling 10 vacant positions, along with the elimination of some equipment purchases, the town can save about $800,000 of that money. 

The potential deficit also led to the Town Board adopting a resolution approved Tuesday that limits department spending as well as the outsourcing of tasks and services that can be done in-house, among other things. 

The resolution requires all department heads to stay within their 2020 budget and orders capital projects that have yet to be funded to be postponed. This also applies to purchases of equipment and vehicles. Budget transfers from surplus or fund balance also are postponed.

Last Thursday’s Town Board work session and Tuesday’s regular board meeting were closed to the public but shown remotely by teleconference on the town’s web site and on channel 22, the government channel.

The outbreak of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic had led the budget problems, as Governor Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order banning all non-essential construction work in the state on March 22. 

The $800,000 estimate is the result of $400,000 in estimated retirements that won’t be filled, and an estimated $400,000 in budgeted equipment purchases that can be held off, according to Mr. Rothaar. 

The town budget for 2020 anticipated $900,000 in building inspection fees and $150,000 in site plan fees. 

Shortfalls in Suffolk County’s budget could also impact Riverhead because the county makes the town whole on any delinquent taxes, Mr. Rothaar said. 

Councilwoman Jodi Giglio said she wants to be sure that the town replaces retired police officers. 

The Town Board approved two retirements in the police department at its April 7th meeting and three more on Tuesday’s meeting. 

The town also accepted the retirement of Karin Gluth, a long time planner in the town’s planning Board, at Tuesday’s meeting. 

“We want to keep the employees we have,” said Councilwoman Catherine Kent.

“Absolutely,” Supervisor Yvette Aguiar responded. 

“There’s no crystal ball but we’re going to do everything we can to keep the town running efficiently,” Councilman Frank Beyrodt said. 

On Tuesday, Ms Giglio was the only board member to oppose a resolutions to remove the provisional status from an engineering aide and to hire a network and systems administrator. 

Ms. Giglo said her vote had nothing to do with those employees but she added, “I don’t feel now is the time where we should be hiring people,” referring to the coronavirus pandemic and it’s effect on finances. 

Supervisor Aguiar said the positions were both in the adopted budget.

“We need to make sure the town is secured,” she said. The town has taken steps to put a cyber security system and a disaster recovery system in place since January. The new person, Henry Kreymborg, has a salary of $81,350 per year and will replace someone who retired on March 31. That person’s salary was $113,367, according to town records. 

The improvements in cyber security were recommended in an audit in January, the supervisor said. 

Heroes Way approved

The board unanimously approved the honorary designation of a portion of Roanoke Avenue near Peconic Bay Medical Center as “Heroes’ Way,” in honor of hospital workers and first responders in the wake to the coronavirus. 

The idea was suggested recently by PBMC president and CEO Andrew Mitchell. 

“In my nearly 40 years in health care administration, I have never before seen this scope of bravery, dedication and human caring that took place within the walls of the medical center during the COVID-19 outbreak,” Mr. Mitchell wrote in a letter to the Town Board. 

“From doctors and nurses to technical and support staff, everyone at PBMC risked their personal welfare to work as a team and provide incredible levels of care to huge numbers of extremely sick patients. I have never been so proud to service with these amazing healthcare heroes.”

He also thanked the community for its support during the crisis. 

“It’s a great tribute and it’s well deserved,” Councilwoman Jodi Giglio said upon casting her vote the designation. 

“I’m very proud to do this, and hopefully we can have some type of dedication ceremony,” Councilwoman Catherine Kent said.