Rensselaerville considers switching to appointed sole assessor

The Enterprise — H. Rose Schneider

From left, Kenneth “Chip” Decker, Connie Kudlack, and John “Jack” Kudlack, were named Rensselaerville’s volunteers of the year at the town board’s May 10 meeting.

RENSSELAERVILLE — Rensselaerville may soon join the majority of towns in New York in having a sole appointed assessor, rather than three elected ones, as it currently has.

The Rensselaerville Town Board will have a special meeting on June 4 at 7 p.m. to discuss whether the town should do away with the elected posts in favor of an appointed one.

Of the 994 towns and cities in New York State, only 60 have an elected board of assessors, and another 10 have single elected assessors. The rest are appointed by the town or city government or, in the case of Tompkins and Nassau counties, by the county government.

In Albany County, Berne is the only other town besides Rensselaerville with elected assessors.

Tom Fallati, Rensselaerville’s town attorney, had said at the board’s April 11 meeting that in 1970 the state changed its laws regarding assessors, doing away with three elected assessors and creating the position of a sole appointed assessor. Some towns like Rensselaerville opted out of the change, but the town is allowed to change the position to either a sole-elected or sole-appointed position with a term of six years.

An appointed assessor does not have to be a town resident, Fallati noted.

Two of Rensselaerville’s assessors — Donna Kropp and Kathryn Wank — spoke in favor of the change at the board’s May 9 meeting. The third assessor, Jeffry Pine, was not present but he told The Enterprise this week that he also supports the switch.

“It’s the time to do it, I think,” he said.

Kropp said, with elections every four years, it is cumbersome to train each newly-elected assessor. Wank added that the position has become more suited for a sole, part-time professional.

“It’s kind of like a revolving door all the time … ,” Kropp had said at the April 11 meeting. “But it’s not a job you can learn in six months or a year. And there’s courses that you have to take to be certified; the state gives you up to three years of that four-year term to be certified.”

The state’s Department of Taxation and Finance promotes the employment of a single assessor, saying on its website that it is more efficient to have one person interpret tax law and assess properties. Appointed assessors also have longer terms and have to have certain qualifications.

At the town board’s May 9 meeting, Fallati said that, if the board passes a local law to appoint a sole assessor, the terms of the three elected assessors would expire on Dec. 31 of that year. The town board can decide that the public has to vote on the change (a mandatory referendum); that the public has to petition for a vote on the change (a permissive referendum), or that there will be no referendum.

Wank, an Independence Party member, has been in office since 2014; her term will not be up until 2022. Kropp, a Republican, has been an assessor for around 14 years and her term also expires in 2022.

Pine served as assessor from 1999 to 2011; he lost elections for the post in 2011 and 2013. He then ran successfully in 2015, and his post is up for re-election this year. But Pine said he will not be seeking reelection. The current chair of the town’s Democratic Committee, he said that the committee will be interviewing candidates for the position as well as others on the ballot soon.

Other business

In addition, at its April 11 meeting, the board:

— Noted that at an April 4 emergency meeting it appointed a new town justice, Gregory Bischoff, who had served as town judge from 2012 to 2016;

— Heard from the group Kenneth’s Army that its annual fundraiser will be held on June 1 at Berne’s town park. The group formed four years ago after Berne-Knox-Westerlo kindergartner Kenneth White was murdered by his cousin;

— Heard from the town attorney that the state comptroller’s office has continued an audit of the town’s finances, and that the town’s insurance company will leave open a claim for funds stolen in December by the former town supervisor, Steven Pfleging, until the audit, which is in its sixth week, is completed;

— Heard concerns from Highway Superintendent Randall Bates that Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program, or CHIPS, funding will be reduced in coming years;

— Heard from Bill Benson, of the town’s water and sewer committee, about repairing a leak in the dam located at the E.N. Huyck Preserve. He said that the committee will have to see if funds are available to cover the cost of repairs;

— Heard from the town’s recycling coordinator, Jon Whitbeck, that costs of recycling commingled materials and cardboard will both increase: commingled recycling has increased from $61.75 to $68.45 a ton and will increase next month to $71.75 a ton, and cardboard, which had previously been free, will go up to $15 a ton;

— Discussed creating laws governing residents’ maintenance of sidewalks recently installed in Preston Hollow; and

— Recognized Kenneth Decker, and John and Connie Kudlack as Rensselaerville’s “Volunteers of the Year.”

More Hilltowns News

  • 101-year-old farm

    Westerlo is in the process of developing a comprehensive land-use plan and its Comprehensive Plan Committee hopes to make the process as transparent and as open to the public as possible, said chairman David Lendrum.

  • Amelia and Peter Nobis

    Chantelle Nobis, a Hilltown native who now lives near Rome, New York, is fighting to develop better treatments for neurofibromatosis, a rare and vaguely understood genetic disorder that afflicts both her husband and daughter.

  • Outrage and partisanship may have left their high-water mark in Berne, where dozens of residents attended the latest town board meeting to hammer the new council with questions and comments about the illegal removal of town employees from their positions, among other issues. Many of the residents’ remarks were met with eye rolls from the mostly GOP-backed board who, for the first time in decades, can steam ahead unimpeded by Democrats’ desires. 

The Altamont Enterprise is focused on hyper-local, high-quality journalism. We produce free election guides, curate readers' opinion pieces, and engage with important local issues. Subscriptions open full access to our work and make it possible.