PORT HENRY - Moriah assessors are all in full compliance with state regulations.
Bernard Roy of the Essex County Real Property Tax Office, delivered that message at the Sept. 8 Moriah town board meeting.
Roy attended the meeting to answer questions brought up by the public during the board's August meeting. Some people had claimed the town assessors were unqualified and had not completed state-required course work.
"It's important that we clear the air on this," Moriah Supervisor Tom Scozzafava said.
Roy did that, presenting the board with documentation from the state showing Moriah's assessors to be fully qualified.
Moriah is served by an elected, three-member board of assessors. Paul Mazzotte is the chairman. Other assessors are Brent Ida and Edward Carpenter.
Roy told the town board state law required assessors to complete three assessment administration courses and five appraisal courses before taking and passing a written examination. The requirements must be fulfilled within three years of first being elected, Roy said.
"If they don't complete the courses they are removed (from office) by the state," he said.
Roy stressed assessors are elected officials. As such, he said, they answer only to voters - the town board has no authority to direct the actions of assessors.
"They (assessors) have to answer to the voters every four years," Scozzafava said. "The town board is not the boss of any other elected official."
Moriah assessors have been questioned and criticized since last spring when a revaluation of the town raised property values.
Mazzotte said the assessment hike was needed to meet state requirements that each community be assessed at full market value.
Moriah was assessed at 88.5 percent of market value, according to the state, Mazzotte said.
Although the assessment increase averaged 11.5 percent, it varied from property to property, the assessor explained. It wouldn't be fair to simply raise everyone's assessment without regard to improvements and new construction, he said.
All 3,000 parcels in the town were assessed, Mazzotte said. The revaluation brought Moriah's total assessed value from $270 million to $302 million, he said.
Responding to the criticism, Mazzotte said statistics don't support the concerns of many residents.
"People say the economy is bad, that home prices are down," he said. "Local (property) sales don't reflect that."
He also disputed the notion that higher assessments lead to higher taxes. In fact, he said, if local government holds the line on spending people with an 11 percent assessment increase will see a slight tax decrease in 2009.
Scozzafava acknowledged assessments don't raise taxes.
As an example, he told residents of his own assessment, which has increased from $72,300 in 2003 to $90,400 in 2009. In that same period, his town and county taxes decreased by about $20 a year.
Mazzotte said failing to keep the local assessment roll current will cost taxpayers in the long run as the state lowers exceptions, such as the STAR program.
Roy agreed with the need for full market value assessment.