How many assessors does it take to change a policy?

CHATHAM – Tempers flared at last week’s board meeting during a discussion of the village assessor, as a group of village residents and property owners questioned whether Mayor Paul Boehme had pursued research into whether having a village assessor is a needless duplication of services. Village boundaries take in parts of the Towns of Ghent and Chatham, and each town has its own assessor.

At its meeting Thursday, January 13, the board also discussed how it might find the $2 million it needs for a sewer upgrade project. Officials hope to fund the project with a low or no-interest low from the state.

For several months villagers have asked the mayor whether the village can rely on town assessments rather than have its own assessors, even supplying him with information about other villages in the state that have eliminated their assessor’s offices. Proponents of doing away with the assessor function say it would save money for village taxpayers.

Mayor Boehme said he would look into the question and mentioned doing research into the issue during past board meetings, saying he wanted to know how other municipalities in the state that lie across two or more towns handled the question. Mr. Boehme said at last Thursday’s meeting that he was still collecting information. The mayor also said that the village assessor, Garth Solcum, has been “doing a very good job with us.”

Village resident Georgene Gardner said that she was unhappy with the assessment on her house on Kinderhook Street and had come to the village several times to discuss the issue. Mr. Boehme said she needed to come to grievance day, which is always held on third Thursday of February — February 15 this year — at the Tracy Memorial.

“There is nothing fair about the assessments in the village,” said resident Michael Richardson. He said that he checked the village tax rolls and noticed discrepancies, citing the very different assessments of the two funeral homes in the village. He traced some of the disparities to “people who are connected to the Village Board and not connected to the Village Board.”

“If there are mistakes, you see it, come in and grieve it,” said Mr. Boehme, though he did acknowledge that the assessor made a mistake with the funeral homes, adding that it was too late change the assessments before the current rolls came out.

Mr. Richardson said that if the village was going to pay for its own assessor, values should be fair and not be worked out after the fact in grievance process.

“It’s a total duplication,” said Rusty Vasac, who owns property in the village. “At the village level, it gets rid of another layer,” he said of removing the village assessor.

“What that guy is getting paid in salary is worth it,” said Mr. Boehme.

Village Trustee George Grant said that having a village assessor making sure assessments are equal for houses in the village that are also in different towns is a benefit of living in the village.

Mr. Boehme said that the board would continue to look into the issue.

In other business, the board discussed the costs associated with the $2-million upgrade that the village needs to its sewer system so the system will comply with regulations enforced by the state Department of Environmental Conservation. The village will have to pay $6,000 for a land survey before moving ahead the project. “It’s gotta be done,” said Mr. Boehme. But the village will receive reimbursement for the survey if Chatham is successful in winning approval for state funding for the project. The board is in line to receive low interest loans and may be eligible for hardship funding.

In other business, the mayor warned homeowners who do not clear the sidewalks in front of their buildings within 72 hours after a storm that the village will clear away the snow and send the property owner a bill.

Before the storm last week, no-parking signs were posted on Kinderhook Street, and board members said that cleaning snow was much easier, though it did mean 140 hours of work for the Department of Public Works.

The next village meeting will be the water and sewer meeting Thursday, January 27 at 7:30 p.m. at the Tracy Memorial.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email .

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