Westport Supervisor Dan Connell and Elizabethtown Supervisor Margaret Bartley have been discussing their options as the three towns have been working together as a sole assessing municipality.
Supervisors Dan Connell of Westport and Margaret Bartley of Elizabethtown are ready again to talk about hiring the county for their towns’ assessor services.
In May, Connell presented a resolution to the board that would have authorized a contract between the county and the towns of Westport, Elizabethtown and Willsboro for assessor services. After some debate, the resolution was tabled.
Connell came back to the table with a new version of the proposal during the Sept. 15 finance committee meeting, with only two of the original three towns — Westport and Elizabethtown — seeking to contract with Essex County.
“Westport and Elizabethtown would enter into a contract for assessing services with Essex County for one year,” Connell said. “We would pay at a rate of $14 per parcel for the year, and the whole program would be evaluated at the end of the year.”
Connell said the plan would require a member of the Real Property Office that is also certified by the state as an assessor to work one day a week in each of the town offices throughout the year trial. A part-time employee would be hired by the county to fill in when the assessor was away from the county offices.
Financially, the county would receive roughly $15,600 in revenue, Connell said, along with the potential for additional funding from the state. Each town would also see a benefit as they would save roughly $3,500 under the proposed system.
“We are asking the board to give us an opportunity to try this,” Connell said. “Real property tax would be hiring a part-time person at 19 hours a week. They would be told up front that this is a one-year, part-time position. It gives our two towns an opportunity for a year to look at other options as well.”
“One of the differences is what you pay them in salary per parcel is different than what you pay them in total with benefits,” Bartley said on the expected savings to the towns. “When you count all of the other parts, we are paying more than $14 a parcel.”
Westport and Elizabethtown were part of the Certified Assessment Program through the state, along with Willsboro, which expires at the end of the month. The two towns remaining together have sought applicants to serve a six-year term as sole assessor for the municipalities, but were not impressed with the results.
“We had people from all over the state apply,” Connell said. “When we did reference checks and looked at the application, we were not satisfied with the pool that we were presented with.”
Bartley said towns contracting with their home county for assessing services is something that is happening throughout the state.
“The Herkimer County Real Property Office is assessing for six towns and is picking up a seventh next year,” she said. “Schuyler County is doing the assessment services for the entire county. It is something that is changing because it is becoming too difficult at the small-town level to find people to do the job.”
North Hudson Supervisor Ronald Moore said he wanted to see the test year move forward.
“I would like to see how this would work out,” Moore said. “It is difficult to get people to run for these positions, and it is also difficult to find people to serve as a sole appointed. It would be good if we could at least have the option. I want to see how this plays out to see if it is something that could benefit our towns.”
“The office has a huge impact on town assessments now,” County Manager Dan Palmer said. “I know that there is hesitancy on the countywide assessor situation. I think that there is going to come a time when you are all not going to be able to find a qualified assessor. As the towns get to the point where they do not have a choice, then the county should be able to provide an option for you.”
The resolution was passed through committee with only Randy Preston of Wilmington abstaining, saying that he wanted to know what the full cost to the county would be before he voted.
“I want to know what this is truly going to cost the county before I vote on anything,” Preston said.