A public hearing Tuesday on the adoption of Riverhead Town’s 2021 preliminary budget did not generate any feedback.
Supervisor Yvette Aguiar unveiled the $59 million preliminary budget at the end of September. It featured a reduction of about $684,000 in spending across the town’s three major funds: general fund, highway and street lighting. That represented a 1.14% reduction in spending while staying under the state-imposed property tax cap. The budget increases the townwide tax levy by 2.6% and it increases the townwide tax rate by 3.45%, from $56.068 per $1,000 of assessed value to $58 per $1,000.
“In my 25 years of preparing budgets, this was one of the most difficult ones I’ve ever had to prepare,” said Bill Rothaar, the town’s financial administrator. “With all the uncertainty in 2020, specifically reduction in all of these revenues — some of them we were told how much it was going to be, some of it was a stab in the dark based on what we received this year — it was a very difficult budget to put together.”
Mr. Rothaar said the budget features “very conservative” revenue flow estimates.
“I’m confident this is a very good budget,” he said. “If we receive more revenue than expected, it can only go up from there.”
Ms. Aguiar congratulated Mr. Rothaar for his efforts to complete the budget amid the uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Mr. Rothaar said the town benefited from renegotiated contracts with police unions — the Police Benevolent Association and the Superior Officers’ Association. The unions agreed to extend their contract by two years and retirement payouts will be extended over four years, reducing the town payment by $645,000 for 2021 budget.
“I want to thank all the department heads as we negotiated what had to be cut,” Ms. Aguiar said.
Councilman Tim Hubbard pointed out that the budget did not include any layoffs to the town workforce.
“You guys did an excellent job,” he said.
The preliminary budget places a hold on all new hires and promotions with the exception of essential services, limits large capital asset purchases and reduces discretionary spending by approximately 20% within each department.
The Town Board also approved a resolution for the police department to transfer $69,344 from the current budget to be used for police vehicles. The transfer comes largely from the equipment line, which totaled $41,979. The 2021 budget calls for a $46,000 reduction in spending on police vehicles from $146,000 to $100,000.
“I’m thankful for the department heads for underspending their budget and I know your budgets are being cut next year,” said Councilwoman Jodi Giglio.
The public hearing will remain open for written comment until 4:30 p.m. on Nov. 16.
Water Tank painting
A public hearing on a proposal to paint a rusty Riverhead water tank just east of United Riverhead Terminals in Northville also did not generate any feedback.
The work to fix the tank is estimated at $1.8 million.
Frank Mancini, Riverhead’s new Water District superintendent, outlined why the work is necessary, as he did during a work session last month.
“The tank is orange because the coding has degraded to the point it’s way past its life expectancy and it’s important we address this tank now before it rusts anymore and loses any mess of the medal because that could cause it to potentially fail in the future,” Mr. Mancini said.
The public hearing will also remain open for written comment through Nov. 16.