Riverhead Supervisor Yvette Aguiar delivers her budget message during a press conference in her office Sept. 30. Photo: Alek Lewis

Riverhead Supervisor Yvette Aguiar’s proposed 2022 operating budget calls for a 1.4% reduction in the town-wide tax rate. The tax rate would drop 80 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, from $58.00 per $1,000 to $57.20 per $1,000.

Property in Riverhead in 2021 is assessed at 11.80% of its market value, according to the State Department of Taxation and Finance, which sets the property tax equalization rates statewide. Thus, a home with a market value of about $400,000 would have an assessed value of $47,200 in Riverhead. Its town-wide tax bill in 2022, would be just under $2,700, a drop of about $38 from 2021.

In the her tentative budget for 2022, the supervisor proposes spending of $60,304,100 for the three town-wide funds, a 2.1% increase over the 2021 adopted budget.

Aguiar said she was able to “offset inevitable spending increases including contractual expenses and higher health insurance premiums” and also enhance town government operations by saving money this year and utilizing non-tax sources of revenue such as federal coronavirus relief and community benefit funds received as a result of agreements with solar energy companies constructing power facilities in Calverton.

“Sound financial planning in 2021 paved the way for the stable fiscal position we find ourselves in today,” Aguiar said yesterday when she unveiled her 2022 tentative budget in a press conference following the town board work session.

The three town-wide funds are the general fund, which covers most general operating expenses of town government, the highway fund, which covers the expenses of the repairs and maintenance of town roads and sidewalks, and the street-lighting fund, which covers the cost of purchasing, maintaining, repairing and operating street lights and traffic signals in town.

The supervisor’s 2022 tentative budget sets the general fund at $52.5 million, a $1.2 million  — 2.8% — increase over 2021. The police department budget (a little over $17.1 million) is approximately one-third of the total general fund expenditures.

The tentative budget sets the highway fund at $6.6 million, down from $6.8 million in 2021. It sets the street-lighting fund at $1.2 million, unchanged from 2021.

In addition to the three town-wide funds, there are multiple special taxing districts — such as the parking district, business improvement district, ambulance district, water and sewer districts — which raise revenues by taxing properties within the district boundaries and spend money on the needs and purposes of the special districts.

Total town spending, including all special taxing districts, would top $100 million next year — an increase of one-half of 1% over this year — if the tentative budget is adopted as is.

The budget process

State law spells out a specific timeline for budget creation and adoption by towns.

The town supervisor is required to file a budget proposal with the town clerk on or before Sept. 30. This document is called the tentative budget. The supervisor is required to obtain and review estimates and recommendations from all department heads in preparing the tentative budget.

The town clerk is required to present the tentative budget to the town board at a regular or special meeting on or before Oct. 5.

The town board is required to review the tentative budget and may revise it as it sees fit, so long as the changes are consistent with law. The board may call on any department head and the supervisor to discuss the tentative budget and the department heads’ estimates.

After the town board completes its review and approves any changes it deems advisable, the tentative budget and any changes made by the town board become the preliminary budget. If the board does not make any changes to the tentative budget, the tentative budget becomes the preliminary budget.

The town board is required to hold a public hearing on the preliminary budget, showing any changes made by the board, on or before the Thursday immediately following the general election. The general election year is Tuesday, Nov. 2, so the town board is required to hold a hearing on the preliminary budget on or before Thursday, Nov. 4.

After the public hearing, the town board may make additional changes to the preliminary budget. The preliminary budget, as amended, is adopted by resolution of the town board on or before Nov. 20.

The preliminary budget as adopted is then known as the annual budget for the next fiscal year, which begins Jan. 1.

In the event the town board fails to adopt a budget by Nov. 20, the preliminary budget, as amended by prior resolution of the town board, becomes the annual budget for the next fiscal year.

Correction: The calculation of the town-wide tax bill for a home with a market value of $400,000 was incorrect in the original version of this story. Under the current equalization rate, the assessed value of a home with a $400,000 market value is $47,200, not $34,000 as initially reported. With a tax rate of $57.20 per $1,000 of assessed value, the town-wide tax bill would be $2,699.84.

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Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.