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Copies of the 2017 tentative budget await distribution to town board members on Sept. 29. File photo: Denise Civiletti

Pierce the tax cap? Cue the crickets

Though the idea of piercing the tax cap sparked a flurry of protest on social media last month, no one turned out to Riverhead Town Hall to comment during a public hearing last night.

A local law authorizing the Riverhead Town Board to pierce the tax levy cap in 2017 was the subject of the public hearing. But the hearing was closed as soon as it opened after no one rose to address the board.

Supervisor Sean Walter left the record of the hearing open for written comment until Oct. 21. Written comment may be made submitted by mail to Riverhead Town Clerk Diane Wilhelm, 200 Howell Avenue, Riverhead NY 11901. You can also submit comments by email.

The supervisor on Sept. 29 presented the board with a tentative budget calling for a 4.81 percent tax levy increase in 2017 — 3.39 percent higher than the 1.4 percent tax levy cap imposed on Riverhead Town by state law. The tax levy limit is set at the lower of 2 percent or the rate of inflation, with certain adjustments, including tax base growth. Without the tax base growth, the tax levy limit would have been set at .68 percent.

The town property tax levy of $44.6 million in the supervisor’s tentative budget will require a 4.19-percent tax rate hike, resulting in a town-wide tax rate of $53.228 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. That’s $2.142 higher than this year’s tax rate of $51.086 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.  See the 2017 tentative budget here.

The town board is required by state law to hold a public hearing on its preliminary budget — the supervisor’s tentative budget with any revisions made by the board — on or before Nov. 10 this year. (The statute requires the hearing to be held on or before the Thursday following the general election.)

No budget hearing date has yet been set.

The town’s budget adoption process is governed by state law, which sets a Nov. 20 hard deadline for adoption of a final budget. If the board fails to meet the deadline, the preliminary budget becomes the final budget by operation of law.

Riverhead’s 2016 operating budget also required the town board to pierced the tax cap — which drew no response from the public last year either.

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