Riverhead BOE votes to start legal action against town over late tax payments

The Riverhead Board of Education voted unanimously to begin taking legal action against Riverhead Town over late tax payments during a virtual meeting Tuesday.

Earlier this month, district officials spoke out about the town’s failure to forward 2019-2020 tax money by June 30, as required by law. Deputy superintendent Sam Schneider estimated that Riverhead owes the district $4.5 million, while the towns of Brookhaven and Southampton have paid the district their share of tax money in full.

At the July 7 meeting, Mr. Schneider said Riverhead is the only Suffolk town that is “consistently late” in forwarding the payments. As a result, he said the district faces cash flow issues and is forced to borrow additional money to make up for the difference.

Specifically, Mr. Schneider said the delay will impact payments the school district is obligated to make to the Riverhead Free Library.

The notice of claim filing will make town officials aware that a lawsuit may be filed.

Reached by phone Tuesday evening, Riverhead Town Supervisor Yvette Aguiar said the move was “clearly” political.

Ms. Aguiar estimated that the town is owed approximately $8 million in residential tax payments due to tax deadline extensions granted amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Now, she said, the town is awaiting the county to make their tax warrant whole.  

“Southampton and Brookhaven’s share of taxes to the school district is considerably less compared to Riverhead Town’s share,” she said, adding that the school district continually takes out Tax Anticipation Notes to cover shortfalls.

“Maybe Mr. Schneider should concentrate on having his budget passed next week and the myriad of other issues that plague the administration of the school district,” she said, assuring that the town would remit the funds once they receive them, rather than go through a lengthy legal process.