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Riverhead Town’s proposed $60.3M budget decreases tax levy

Riverhead Town’s 2022 tentative budget, released Thursday, calls for a decrease in the townwide tax levy by less than one percent.

The townwide budget includes the general fund, highway fund and street lighting district, which are the three town funds paid into by all Riverhead property taxpayers.

The tax levy in the tentative budget, which is the amount of money raised through taxes, dropped from the current levy of $49,664,100 to $49,305,400.

Supervisor Yvette Aguiar said the town had not reduced taxes in the last 21 years.

The budget calls for a reduction in the highway fund from $6.81 million to $6.61 million.

Total spending in the tentative budget increases by 2.08% from $59 million to $60.3 million. The townwide tax rate per $1,000 of assessed value increases by 1.27%, from $58.000 to $58.737 per $1,000. That equates to $81 more in taxes for someone with an average assessment.

Riverhead, unlike other towns, also features a number of special districts that only certain taxpayers contribute to, such as sewer districts, ambulance district and garbage district. Overall town spending increases by $458,000, or .0046%.

“2021 has proven to be a year of progress for the Town of Riverhead,” Ms. Aguiar said in her budget message. She said the town’s plans are advancing “despite the ongoing financial challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

She said the town reduced spending and also received a positive audit from the state Comptroller’s office, which said the town “adequately assessed the impact of the pandemic on financial operations while developing estimates for significant revenues and expenditures in the 2021 adopted budget.” 

In addition, Ms. Aguiar said, “for the first time in over two decades, Moody’s Investors Service upgraded the Town of Riverhead’s bond rating, from Aa3 to Aa2, a significant sign of fiscal stability of our debt burden.”

The tentative budget is required to be presented by the supervisor to the Town Board by Oct. 1.

The supervisor said her 2022 tentative budget “provides our town with the ability to enhance our critical information technology infrastructure, supply body cameras for our police officers, further the expansion of our code enforcement department, continue the updating of our comprehensive master plan, and continue the development of our new Town Square along the Peconic Riverfront.”

The police body cameras will be funded through the American Rescue Fund and are not currently included in the tentative budget, according to town finance administrator Bill Rothaar. He said the cameras cost $100,000.

The Town Board must have a public hearing on what is then called the preliminary budget. From there, the full board is required to vote to adopt the budget as final by Nov. 20, under state law. If the town doesn’t vote to adopt a budget, the preliminary budget becomes the final budget.