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In split vote, Town Board votes to adopt 2023 budget

On Tuesday, the Riverhead Town Board voted 3-2 to adopt a 2023 budget that pierces the state’s 2% cap on tax levy increases. Supervisor Yvette Aguiar and Councilman Ken Rothwell voted against its approval. 

At its previous meeting Nov. 1, the board voted to add about $600,000 to the preliminary budget through a series of eight resolutions that increased both spending and the tax levy. 

The final budget adopted Tuesday calls for $63,872,800 in spending, a 5.92% increase; a tax levy of $50,188,600, a 4.51% hike; and a tax rate of $59,513 per $1,000, a 4.21% increase. The additions included salaries for two automotive equipment operators; a $5,400 increase for the Town Board coordinator; $109,300 for a new fire inspector; $28,100 for a new recycling coordinator; and $90,000 for a new tractor in buildings and grounds. 

The tentative budget proposed by Ms. Aguiar in October had called for a tax rate increase of 3% . 

For property with a $50,000 assessment, the final 4.21% increase amounts to $120.45, according to town finance administrator Bill Rothaar. 

Riverhead assesses property at 10.14% of full property value, according to the state’s equalization rate. 

Mr. Rothwell said he felt the budget should have been discussed at work session more. He called it a “top-heavy budget,” noting that people making $100,000 got $6,000 raises and people making $50,000 are getting a $3,000 raise. 

“The lower tiers need to be brought up so you can make a decent living in the Town of Riverhead,” he said. 

Ms. Aguiar cited a “lack of transparency” and the increase in the budget as reasons for her opposing it. 

“I did have discussions with the Town Board members — during the budget process, and when I completed my process — and no one made any recommendations,” she said.

Under state law, the Town Board had until Nov. 20 to adopt the budget or whatever changes were approved by the board via resolution.