There are some that seem to think that the vote to move to sole appointed assessor (in Crown Point) was done out of an act of vengeance. You will believe what your mind tells you. My heart, spirit and love of our town and it’s people was the reason for my vote. I have lived in this town for over 61 years. I know almost everyone who lives here. To think I would cast a vote out of an act vengeance that I knew would have negative responses against some residents of this community, as well as negative impacts on my family and my wife’s own family (Carl Ross is her uncle) is absurd.
The idea of a sole assessor was first explored in early 2010 in response to a recommendation brought to us from our newly-formed budget reduction committee. After hours of research the budget reduction committee gave the board lots of information, including extensive comparisons of all the other towns in Essex County. This information was given to all board members to study, ask questions and do their own research. New York State has also encouraged the sole appointed assessor system because it costs the state so much less and puts a professional in the job. I became convinced that it was the most cost effective approach for our small community in these extremely difficult economic times.
In our research in 2010 we obtained information from the Office of Real Property Service that was collected state wide in 2008. That information showed that out of 1,226 assessor positions 841 were municipal appointed, 125 were municipal elected three member teams and 12 were municipal elected sole. The remainder were county appointed (NYC Tompkins) and county elected sole (Nassau). In Essex County nine towns had changed over to sole appointed assessor and only one of those towns, Keene, had a public referendum. All the rest were changed by a board vote.
Much information was compiled by the Concerned Citizen Group for presentation and a public informational meeting that was held mid 2010 at the Crown Point Fire Department. Carl Ross, an elected assessor, Dave Galarneau, a sole appointed assessor, Robert Rowe who had worked at the County ORPS office and the County Tax office as well as having been an assessor himself, and David Blades, who is a supervisor and has worked with an appointed assessor, were all in attendance. Questions from the attendees were answered by the panel. Between the information from this pubic meeting and that given to us by the budget reduction committee, the town board members had much to study and discuss. After the meeting I made it a point to contact other towns that were outside Essex County that had changed to the sole assessor model. After spending more than four hours on the phone one afternoon I had not received even one negative report.
Presently the state is offering a one-time incentive of $7 per parcel for municipalities that move to the appointed assessor position. The present rate a sole appointed assessor receives is between $10 and $12 per parcel. For the first year only that rate would be reduced by the incentive rate. I was concerned that if we did not act quickly the state could actually move to mandate sole assessors. If that happened the incentive would disappear and we would have missed a window of opportunity. Another major factor which I considered very important was that by going to a sole appointed assessor the town could take advantage of shared services and form a CAP (Coordinated Assessing Program) with another town. Crown Point has a little more than 1,800 parcels of land. This means that we would have the option of hiring an assessor that already served other municipalities, and if we did, we would be able to share health care costs (if we want to go to health care down the road). Health care, as we all realize, is driving employer costs sky high and is going to have to be cost-shared with employees. These costs have to come from somewhere and, in our case now, it is only the taxpayers.
Over the past several years I watched our school struggle at budget time making many very difficult decisions. A large number of position cuts were required before the district could present a budget that its taxpayers would accept. I became a news fanatic and watched the stock market closely. I listened as state and federal jobs were being cut so that budget costs could be held down. I listened and watched people in our own community struggle to survive. It was disheartening to know how many people we have on fixed incomes, some with less than $900 a month to live on.
Making this decision was not easy, but I had to do what I felt was right for everyone. I knew my decision would not be popular to some. However, I did not ask to be voted into this office to win a popularity contest. I was voted in to do the best I could do for the future of our community. I believe that is what I did when I moved to go to sole appointed assessor.
My only regret is how the angry response from a handful of disgruntled people has affected not only this community but my family as well. They should not have been subjected to the anger stirred up by those thinking of only their own selfish interests at the expense of the health and well being of the town as a whole.
Robert Patnode Jr. is a Crown Point town board member.