Riverhead Board of Education moves closer to resolving PILOT payment dispute with LIPA

The Riverhead Board of Education, Town of Riverhead and Long Island Power Authority came one step closer to resolving a months-long dispute regarding the invoicing of payments in lieu of taxes due to schools and other special districts at Tuesday night’s Board of Education meeting.

The Board of Education approved an agreement between Riverhead Town, LIPA, Suffolk County, and all of the town’s special districts to collect what is expected to be over $10 million dollars in PILOT payments.

The agreement authorizes the town to send consolidated PILOT statements to LIPA for the 2021-2022 and 2022-2023 tax years on behalf of all taxing districts in the town.

The statements will include the PILOT amounts owed for all taxing jurisdictions on each LIPA-owned parcel, calculated like property taxes. The statements would include the information the town would normally provide in its property tax bills issued to the parcels, according to the agreement.

Riverhead Central School District approved a tax levy last year which included the money that they were expecting to come from those payments, estimated at $2.9 million.

To collect the money, the Board of Education in January approved the law firm of Guercio and Guercio to start litigation against undisclosed parties “with respect to payments in lieu of taxes.” There has been no lawsuit filed yet by the district. An attorney for Riverhead district couldn’t comment on questions regarding the lawsuit. The 2014 LIPA reform act limited the PILOT increases to 2% per year.

Although the approval of this agreement by the district is one step closer, there is still a way to go until the district receives the money, District Superintendent Augustine Tornatore said.

“It’s not like this was resolved tonight. It’s not like the district is receiving the money yet,” he said. “It’s still a whole process. We are just hopeful that now the district has entered into this agreement that all the entities will agree to this as well and we are hopeful that LIPA will be sending the funds so that the district will be able to fully support our students and our community.”

A time frame as to when the district will receive the money is still unclear.

“That’s where, as a superintendent, I’m frustrated because we’re building our budget and it’s so important that we know when the payments will be and exactly how much it will be but we don’t know that as of yet,” Mr. Tornatore said.

For more information, a draft of the agreement is available on the district website,

2023-2024 BUDGET

The board also heard the district’s first of three presentations for the proposed 2023-2024 budget on Tuesday night. The presentation was made by Rodney Asse, the district’s assistant superintendent for finance and operations.

The presentation covered the budget for the board, district clerk, records management, central administration, business administration, personnel, legal services, public information, central printing and mailing and other administrative items.

The largest increase within those items was within the business administration budget, which went up $687,412 from last year. However, Mr. Asse said the budget for this office isn’t set in stone.

“At this current time, we are going through some reorganization, so these are not final numbers. Very likely I’m going to have to make some adjustment to these numbers but right now we just want to count for everything in our projection,” he said.

The next budget presentation is scheduled for March 14. The budget vote is May 16.