To the Editor:

On Aug. 25, RiverheadLOCAL published an article entitled “Market-rate apartment developer makes pitch for IDA benefits.” I am opposed to these apartments and to IDA benefits for this project. I believe it is necessary to institute a moratorium on similar future projects. In short, while I believe in economic development, it cannot be at the expense of our children.

The Riverhead Central School District, which encompasses nearly all of the Town of Riverhead, is overcrowded. While there was an opportunity to alleviate the overcrowding with a school bond earlier this year, that measure failed. It is irresponsible for the town to approve any new apartments and grant property tax abatements to the developer.

Any new construction that may lead to an increase in the student population is unacceptable until the overcrowding issue is resolved.

I am also opposed to these projects because of the ever-escalating loss of Riverhead School District tax revenue as a direct result of years of the Riverhead Industrial Development Agency’s approval of tax abatements for developers and corporations. According to the Riverhead Central School District financial statements for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2019, the Riverhead Central School District’s revenue was reduced by $2,695,970 by the Town of Riverhead and Suffolk County Industrial Development Agencies. While the District did receive $1,200,687 Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) to offset some of the loss of the tax revenue, the net loss of tax revenue from that year alone was $1,495,283. That money could have been used to help provide programs, reduce the overcrowding in our schools and fund extra-curricular activities, such as sports, music and clubs.

Unfortunately, the 2018-2019 school year tax loss is not an isolated incident. A review of the last 10 years of the reports issued by the New York State Comptroller (“Performance of Industrial Development Agencies in New York State”), shows there have been approximately $20.6 million net tax exemptions/abatements given to corporations and companies in the Town of Riverhead. A substantial portion of this money would have been tax revenue for the school district. This figure does not take into consideration the Suffolk County IDA net tax exemptions/abatements estimated at $83.4 million throughout the county, some of which likely had an impact on the Riverhead CSD. Given that the school budget failed twice this year, here again it would be fiscally irresponsible to approve any tax breaks that would increase the losses of tax revenue, as it would cause irreparable harm to the students of our community.

As a community, we cannot exacerbate these problems by having the Riverhead IDA approve more tax exemptions/abatements. While I am in favor of economic development, I am opposed to economic development that directly hurts kids. There should be a moratorium be placed on all such projects.

Steve Lagnena

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