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Riverhead weighs buyouts to bridge budget gap
The Riverhead Town Board is considering offering a retirement incentive to employees to help close a budget gap looming next year.
The offer would apply to all employees, including police and superior officers, who have at least 20 years’ experience and are 55 or older. Employees who opt in would continue to receive full health benefits for four years after retirement.
The proposal was discussed Tuesday at a public hearing.
Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter said about 10 of the town’s roughly 300 employees have expressed interest in retiring. The board would likely replace any police officers who retire but would leave general employee posts unfilled, he said.
Riverhead Town has offered several retirement incentives in recent years as it struggled with debt payments related to land preservation and an abortive landfill-closure project.
Walter said he is working to stave off a $4 million shortfall or double-digit tax increase in 2015 as the town runs out of the surplus funds it has used to keep taxes from rising in recent years.
The town has applied surplus funds of $2.6 million to $3.6 million — much of it from land sales at the 2,600-acre Enterprise Park at Calverton, or EPCAL — to the general fund over the past three years.
The town board is scheduled to vote on the retirement incentive May 21. Employees would have to opt in by Sept. 3.