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Proposal for one Thurman assessor pending

THURMAN A two-centuries-long tradition in Thurman may be overturned this Spring. For the third time in recent history, a proposal to reduce the number of Thurman town assessors from three to one is set for a vote. A resolution to abolish the existing three offices of elected town assessor -- a tradition for about 215 years -- and substitute one appointed assessor instead, is scheduled for a public hearing 6 p.m. March 18. Considering similar votes in prior years, the proposal is likely to raise some controversy. This controversy, however, may not be as heated as the ongoing ruckus over assessments, town Supervisor John Haskell said Thursday. Property assessments are the number one complaint among town residents, he said. If everyone is as unhappy with their assessments as they sound, I say change the system. For years, town residents have complained about favoritism or equality in assessments, Haskell said. I have no complaint about my own assessment, but for those that do, I say lets bring in an assessor from out -of-town who has no connection with anyone. The town board voted at its January meeting to establish a local law convert to one assessor, one that it would choose. In the past, the proposition was put up for direct public vote. In 2006, the proposition failed by 13 votes. Haskell said the board opted this year for the local law to save taxpayers the expense of bringing the proposition to a public election. Although the board might vote March 18 on the local law, it is more likely to wait until April to do so, Haskell said. Theres too much work for two part-time assessors, Haskell said. We need one full-time professional in the job. Although the town is supposed to have three assessors, only two now hold office: Thomas Tuck Birdsall, who served for two lengthy terms since 1978, and Susan Baker. Both were elected in 2007 to serve four years. Birdsall serves as chairman. The chairman position pays $8,800 annually, and the other two posts pay about $6,500. No one ran in November for the third post, but two write-in candidates, Ed Bender assessor for 9 years and Richard Moraise tied with 8 votes apiece. Moraise turned the post down. Bender accepted, but the town board didnt appoint him. Birdsall said Monday that he didnt want to sway public opinion on the issue of three assessors or one. However, he added that the present system of three assessors has substantial benefits. Three heads are better than one, he said, noting that three people evaluating assessments provides checks and balances. The board, he said, has been successful for six years at following state guidelines in maintaining 100 percent assessment which means no surprises for people when they get their tax bills. This demonstrates weve been doing our job, he said. Haskell agreed, noting that the town received a check for over $5,715 which was due to the assessors meeting the highest standards set by the state. Birdsall said that most people in town saw their taxes decrease in January, which he attributed primarily to the town board at capping expenditures. Also, local assessors know the town well, he said, noting Susan Bakers performance. Sue does wonders, he said. She seeks out people to tell them about exemptions and rebates that can lower their tax bill, he said.

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