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New Scotland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, September 4, 2008

Taxing decisions
New Scotland mulls coordinated assessment

By Jo E. Prout

NEW SCOTLAND — The town board here moved toward greater efficiency last week as it learned how to consolidate assessment duties and hired a part-time internal control officer.

Thomas J. Pinto, of the state Office of Real Property Services, explained the state’s Coordinated Assessment Program for towns in the same or adjoining counties. Pinto said that New York is one of three states that do not require a statewide standard of assessing. New York is also one of 12 states without a mandated reassessment cycle. Some towns in New York, Pinto said, have not been reassessed since World War II.

“Reassessing is the only way to make taxes fair,” Pinto said.

Municipalities can hire individual assessors, contract with counties for assessment services, or form a CAP with one or more nearby towns, Pinto said.

The number of assessors available is decreasing, he said.

“How many kids say they want to be assessors when they grow up?” he asked.

The state offers a one-time consolidation incentive of $7 per parcel to each assessment unit, or municipality, in the CAP, Pinto said. The program requires a 10-year agreement, he said. Those units opting out of the program before then must pay the state a pro-rated portion of the aid they received.

Each participating municipality in a CAP agreement must have the same assessment rates, he said. Up to $5 per parcel in state aid is available for annual or triennial reassessments, he said.

The objective of the consolidation program is to “reduce the number of assessing jurisdictions in New York State in an effort to improve the efficiency in the administration of the real property tax,” according to the website for the Office of Real Property Services. The website states that the other options available can also reduce the cost of reassessment and increase the availability of assessors.

Board member Peg Neri said that, according to the same website, 50 percent of towns share assessors.

Pinto said that some of them have a CAP agreement, while others have less formal arrangements.

“There aren’t enough assessment officers out there to do them all,” Pinto said.

“We should do our due diligence as town board members” to look into shared services, Neri said. 

Van for seniors

The board agreed last week to purchase a used 14-seat van for Senior Services for $5,000 from the town of Bethlehem. Susan Kidder, the town’s senior outreach liaison, told the board that van has been driven 30,000 fewer miles than another van that was also considered. The other van had a wheelchair lift and seated fewer people. The 14-seat van was chosen because of its mileage and because the other bus will not start if the wheelchair lift mechanism is not in its correct place, which could lead to stranded passengers if the mechanism failed, Kidder said.

“Their maintenance records are impeccable,” Kidder said of Bethlehem.

Senior Services currently has $23,500, including grants and fund-raising money. The cost for insurance on the bus will be $750 per year, Kidder said. The van gets eight to 12 miles per gallon of gasoline, she said. She said that volunteers would receive a few hours of training on how to drive the van.

The board also considered giving Senior Services a 2002 Chevrolet Tracker, previously used by emergency services, rather than selling the vehicle. The board will check the vehicle’s Blue Book value, and, if it decides to keep the Tracker, reimburse the account from which it was listed, according to Town Clerk Diane Deschenes. The funds for the vehicle would come from Senior Services.

Other business

In other business, the town board:

— Hired Darryl Purinton as a part-time internal control officer at $100 per hour. Purinton would begin soon and continue until Dec. 31 this year, with his salary not to exceed $19,000, the board said. Half of his working hours will be spent in the supervisor’s office, and half will be spent preparing a year-end statement for the board, the board said;

— Agreed to pay Behan Planning Associates $3,500 to conduct a workshop for the Commercial Zone Advisory Committee on Sept. 17 at the commons at Voorheesville’s high school. Behan will bring in staff members, who will moderate small groups of audience members, according to Neri. The workshop format allows people who are shy in public to speak more comfortably, Neri said.

“It would probably be well worth it,” Neri said.

Behan will submit a written report of the workshop results to the town; and

— Agreed to pay two court employees for an additional five hours per week at $14.52 per hour. Each employee will now work 30 hours, up from 25, per week. The board agreed to re-evaluate the hours when it does its budget. The additional hours will not affect employee benefits, the board said.

The board also agreed to authorize a grant application for new court equipment.

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