Press-Republican

October 3, 2013

Last-minute challenge made to county assessing

By LOHR McKINSTRY
Press-Republican

---- — ELIZABETHTOWN — One supervisor’s opposition threatened to derail implementation of the proposed Consolidated Assessing Program for Westport and Elizabethtown.

Whether the Town of Willsboro withdrew or was kicked out of the program was debated as the Essex County Board of Supervisors Ways and Means Committee prepared to vote Monday on having the County Real Property Tax Office take over assessing for Westport and Elizabethtown.

The resolution passed, 16 to 1, with only Supervisor Edward Hatch (D-Willsboro) opposed. Supervisor Thomas Scozzafava (R-Moriah) had been excused.

The final vote will be held at 10 a.m. Monday, Oct. 7, in the Old County Courthouse at Elizabethtown.

FIRST TO SWITCH

If the measure is successful, Elizabethtown and Westport will become the first towns in Essex County to have the county do their property assessing.

The one-year test project would start this month, and the two towns agreed to pay the county $14 a parcel for assessing services, which would total about $41,000 a year.

The county must hire a part-timer to do tax mapping for $18,250 and pay $6,200 more in salary to promote a tax mapper in the County Real Property Tax Office to assessor.

The part-time tax mapper would be needed so a state-certified assessor employed by the county could spend a day in each town instead of on tax-map duties.

OBJECTS TO COST

Hatch argued that the state had billed Willsboro for $5,900 for withdrawing from the Consolidated Assessing Program that the three towns had been in, and he felt they should not have to pay it.

He said Willsboro wanted to stay in the Consolidated Assessing Program but use its appointed sole assessor, David Galarneau, instead of the county.

“We were satisfied with the appraiser. The assessor (Galarneau) has done a good job for us.”

Supervisor Daniel Connell (D-Westport) said Willsboro had received state aid for assessing as part of the Consolidated Assessing Program, known as CAP.

“The law is clear — if a town drops out of the CAP, you’re responsible to pay back the CAP money,” Connell said.

“You (Willsboro) dropped out of the CAP.”

He said that by reappointing its sole assessor to a six-year term in June, Willsboro effectively left CAP.

Supervisor Roby Politi (R-North Elba) was reluctant to support the county taking over assessing if there was a dispute over the program.

“I’m not privy to the dissension between the three bodies,” he said.

“Any way you look at this, they withdrew,” Connell said. “I don’t think our two towns should now be penalized because Willsboro dropped out of the CAP.”

‘WE’RE VERY CONFUSED’

The Willsboro Town Council resolution was read aloud and seemed to say the town was leaving CAP and reappointing its assessor.

But Hatch said they didn’t actually want to withdraw from CAP.

“You read it, you see we’re very confused,” Hatch said of the town’s resolution.

“I’m making an argument we did not want to get out of here; you’re (the state) kicking me out.”

Hatch said he wants to stay in CAP but not go to the county for assessing services. Connell said that wasn’t an option since Westport was the lead town in CAP and had joined with Elizabethtown to seek county assistance.

Supervisor George Canon (R-Newcomb) said he believes Willsboro’s actions took them out of CAP.

“By default, they withdrew,” he said.

Disagreement over who wanted to do what was irrelevant to the resolution on the floor, Board of Supervisors Chair Randy Douglas (D-Jay) noted.

“Either we support the two towns going to the county or we don’t,” Douglas said. “It’s a simple as that.”

In the end, everyone but Hatch agreed to support the new assessing by the county.

Email Lohr McKinstry:lmckinstry@pressrepublican.com