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Three towns look at assessor options

Westport Supervisor Dan Connell and Elizabethtown Supervisor Margaret Bartley have been discussing their options as the three towns have been working together as a sole assessing municipality.

Westport Supervisor Dan Connell and Elizabethtown Supervisor Margaret Bartley have been discussing their options as the three towns have been working together as a sole assessing municipality. Photo by Keith Lobdell.

— Three towns that have been acting as one when it comes to assessments may now look to the county for services.

The towns of Westport, Willsboro and Elizabethtown have been working under a Coordinated Assessment Program (CAP), which allows the three towns to operate as one municipality when it comes to the hiring of an assessor.

“We have a sole assessor that works for all three towns and is considered and employee of Westport,” Elizabethtown Supervisor Margaret Bartley said during the March 18 Essex County Personnel Committee meeting. “The state considers us to be one town, not three.”

Westport Supervisor Dan Connell said that the three towns are looking at options to fill the position of the sole assessor for the trio of towns after the term of current Assessor David Galarneau runs out Oct. 1.

“We are looking at all of our options moving forward, and one of the options would be to contract with the county,” Connell said. “Our CAP is looking at two or three options on how we might do assessing over the next year, especially if we wanted to go on a trial basis with the county.”

Connell said that any commitment to the county would begin as a one-year trial.

“The town board would have to vote to do this, and then we would have to come to the county to see if they would allow us to do that,” he said.

Real Property Tax Director Charlie Lewis said that any town could contract with the county for their assessor but would want to keep their power over the governance of the program.

“If you contract with the county, you would have to go to a sole appointed assessor in your town,” Lewis said. “Then I would appoint a county employee to be that sole assessor in your town. If you contract with us as a CAP town, then I can only appoint one assessor for those three towns, and that is a lot of work for that one person.”

North Elba Supervisor Roby Politi said that keeping the town as the assessing entity would allow for local control over the final assessment roles.

“You still have a local board of assessment review that would have the final say,” Politi said.”

Lewis said that a contract with a town would cost $13 per assessed parcel, which would show a small revenue for the county.

“To hire one new person to take the responsibilities of this CAP town would show a revenue of $4,000, which I think would be eaten up by mileage and some overtime,” Lewis said.

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