The Telegram
  • Herkimer Co. to provide assessment services to Little Falls

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  • The city of Little Falls will contract with the Herkimer County Department of Real Properties Tax Service for the provision of assessment services.
    The Common Council unanimously voted to enter into an agreement that will pay the county $22,290 per year during their meeting Monday evening.
    The cost, according to the adopted resolution, is based on the county charging a $10 fee for each of the city’s 2,290 taxable properties. The resolution also stated the agreement for the provision of tax assessment services is for a term not more than four years and the city and county reserve the right to review and opt out of the agreement.
    The vote came after a motion made by Second Ward Alderman David Burleson to appoint former city Assessor Joy Presta as acting assessor for the remainder of the year did not receive a second. Burleson said he made the motion to give his fellow council members a choice and to provide an option that would save the city money.
    “It was based on dollars and cents and gave the council a second option to consider,” Burleson said of the motion after the meeting. “Appointing an acting assessor would have saved the city about $8,000, but the motion didn’t receive a second.”
    The Common Council voted 7-0 in October to explore a possible shared services agreement with another municipality or municipalities for tax assessment services.
    This came after the city advertised for a part-time assessor after the Common Council voted 6-2 against reappointing Presta as city assessor at their August meeting.
    City Attorney Jennifer Chrisman said Monday evening the candidate who expressed an interest in serving as part-time city assessor decided he no longer wanted the position.
    Chrisman also said one the municipalities the candidate currently works for expressed they were not in favor of entering into a shared services agreement with the city.
    “That’s why I put Ms. Presta’s name out there,” said Burleson. “I didn’t want the council to have only one choice when it came to hiring an assessor. I also thought appointing an acting assessor would have allowed the city to advertise for the position again, and would have given us someone to complete the work that needs to be done, such as filing STAR exemptions, while we were out there looking for a part-time assessor.”
    Third Ward Alderman Mark Ruffing said Monday evening the decision to contract with the county will leave the city without an assessor for one more week.
    “I spoke to our county administrator and he said once the Legislature votes on the resolution at their meeting next week the county will begin to provide the service,” said Ruffing. “The county’s Department of Real Properties Tax Service was also made aware this was possibility and I was assured they will be ready to work with us once the contract is executed. The STAR exemptions are not due to the state until March, so there will be enough time to get them submitted. It’s only one more week without an assessor.”
    Page 2 of 3 - County Administrator James Wallace could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
    Mayor Robert Peters questioned the decision to enter into an agreement with the county for tax assessment services after Monday evening’s meeting.
    “I have some concerns with the decision, such as there are 19 municipalities in Herkimer County that are assessed by a sole assessor, while there are five that are assessed by the county. When I see that figure I have to question why the majority of the municipalities do not contract with county,” said Peters. “Also, contracting with the county will cost the city $8,000 more than appointing an acting or a part-time assessor. That’s an additional $8,000 the city will have to budget for when there are other things that may need to be taken care of, such as the bleachers and light poles in Vets Park.”
    Peters said the county’s Department of Real Properties Tax Service has the responsibility of providing tax map maintenance, advisory appraisals, explanations of state property tax legislation, compiling information related to local property tax exemptions, processing corrected tax billings, assisting in the enforcement of unpaid taxes, assisting the general public with real property tax matters and printing assessment rolls, tax rolls and tax bills with or without a contract for assessment services in place.
    “The level of service that will be provided to city residents is most concerning to me. I am not going to stand for the county Department of Real Properties Tax Service turning city residents away when they approach them for assistance,” said Peters. “With or without a contact there are certain things the department and its director have to do for residents, and the city will uphold them to that standard when it comes to our residents.”
    Burleson and Peters said the $8,000 in savings was the difference between the $14,000 the city had previously contracted with Presta for and the $22,290 it will pay the county.
    Peters said the municipalities assessed by sole assessors include the city of Little Falls, the village of Cold Brook, the town of Fairfield, the town of German Flatts, which also includes the villages of Ilion and Mohawk, the town of Herkimer, the town of Manheim, the town of Newport, which also includes the town of Norway, the town of Ohio, the village of Poland, the town of Russia, the town of Salisbury, the town of Schuyler, the town of Stark, the town of Little Falls, the town of Warren and the town of Webb.
    The towns assessed by the county Department of Real Properties Tax Service include Columbia, Danube, Frankfort, Litchfield and West Winfield, said Peters.
    “The vote to go with the county puts the search for an assessor to an end,” said Burleson. “Now the council can move forward and concentrate on other business.”
    Page 3 of 3 - Peters was called upon to break a 4-4 tie in January on a resolution to cancel an agreement with Herkimer County for assessment services and approve the appointment of Presta, who had been laid off by the county in December, as part-time city assessor.
    Presta has filed a complaint against First Ward Alderman Jeffrey Gressler, Herkimer County Administrator James Wallace and Herkimer County Clerk Carole LaLonde alleging their actions “have intentionally interfered with and undermined the plaintiff’s performance of her lawful duties, defamed her professional reputation and caused the loss of her county employment,” according to a Herkimer County Supreme Court summons.
    It also is alleged the defendants denied Presta her civil rights, damaged her name and professional reputation and damaged her financially. The defendants also caused Presta “mental distress and anguish,” according to the summons.
    The complaint has been forwarded to the United States District Court for the Northern District of New York where it is before Judge Glenn T. Suddaby.
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