Rensselaerville will no longer have 3 elected assessors

RENSSELAERVILLE — On Thursday, July 11, the Rensselaerville Town Board voted to do away with the town’s current system of three elected assessors and instead move to having a single appointed assessor.

The four board members present at the meeting voted in favor of the measure; Councilwoman Marion Cooke was absent. The board has had several discussions on the matter, and held a special town board meeting as well as a public hearing on the issue before Thursday’s vote. All three current elected assessors are in favor of the measure.

One assessor’s post would have been up for re-election this year; both the Democratic and Republican parties had tentatively nominated candidates with the knowledge that the position could be eliminated.

The three elected assessors’ positions will all expire at the end of the year, and an appointed assessor is scheduled to start on Jan. 1, 2020, with a term ending on Sept. 30, 2025; after that, the term will last for six years and begin on Oct. 1.

Board members discussed advertising for the position but were advised by the town attorney to first develop a job description and set a salary; they agreed to come back with information on this at their next meeting.

The main role of an assessor is to maintain the town’s property assessment rolls, including updating the rolls annually, as well as managing property exemptions.

Nearly a half-century ago, the state changed its laws to do away with three elected assessors for towns and create the position of a sole appointed assessor. Towns that opted out of the change, as Rensselaerville had, are allowed to change to either a sole-elected or sole-appointed position with a term of six years.

Only 60 of the 994 towns and cities in the state have an elected board of assessors; another 10 have single elected assessors. The rest are appointed by town or city governments, and in two counties by the county government. In Albany County, Berne is the only other town with elected assessors.

Hébert Joseph, Rensselaerville’s Democratic chairman, is currently running for assessor on the Democratic line. While he does not believe there is a reason to keep his name on the Democratic ticket, he said he is interested in applying for the appointed position. Likewise, Richard Tollner, the Republican candidate for assessor, said he will be asking the town to consider him for the position.

Tollner, who works part of the week as the town of Princetown’s assessor, believes that it will benefit the town to have an appointed assessor. Joseph, on the other hand, said that the residents should have had the power to choose their next assessor.

One of the current elected assessors, Donna Kropp, said that she is not interested in seeking the position herself. Rather, she recommends that the town board find someone who lives outside of Rensselaerville to avoid nepotism or partiality. She said she has suggested that the town board review state and county lists of assessors.

Kropp and the other current assessors have all recommended that the position be appointed. Kropp said that it is a position requiring experience, rather than one that changes hands with an election.

“It’s just not a job that you can hop into,” she said.

Jeffry Pine and Kathryn Wank, the other two current elected assessors, did not return calls seeking to find out if they would be interested in being appointed to the new full-time assessor post.

 

Other business

On July 11, the board also:

— Heard from representatives of Nexamp Community Solar, who proposed that the town participate in its community solar program. Supervisor John Dolce disclosed that the company is renting solar panels on property he owns in Westerlo;

— Heard from Dolce that the auditors from the state comptroller’s office have agreed that the amount of money reported stolen by former supervisor Steve Pfleging, $13,222.27, is accurate. Dolce said that the auditors are continuing their investigation and have asked to speak with town board members;

— Heard from town attorney Tom Fallati that the town has informed a solar company building in Westerlo on the Rensselaerville town line that, for any tax exemptions the company will seek in Rensselaerville, the town will require a payment in lieu of taxes, known as a PILOT;

— Heard from Dolce that there has been no update on the repairs to the dam in the Huyck Preserve; the issue is now being overseen by the water and sewer board;

— Reviewed letters to be sent to the Rensselaerville and Preston Hollow hamlets regarding maintaining sidewalks; and

— Voted to authorize the former planning and zoning board clerk, who had recently resigned, to serve in the role for another month while the board continues to advertise and search for her replacement.

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