Broadalbin to vote on assessor

Broadalbin officials seek to take the ‘politics’ out of role

Broadalbin Town Supervisor Sheila Perry makes a state regarding the town possibly going from three assessors to one sole assessor prior to the start of the public hearing Tuesday. (The Leader-Herald/Briana O'Hara)

BROADALBIN — Town officials on Wednesday listened to residents during a public hearing to abolish its elected, three-assessor protocol and establish a sole, appointed assessor position by agreeing to put the proposal to a public vote.

State law allows the board to make the change without a public referendum.

Following the public hearing and a brief executive session, the board took action on the proposed local law to be subject to a legal referendum.

“What this means is that the law will be passed tonight by the town board, but it does not take effect unless the people approve it,” said Carmel Greco, town attorney. “If it’s voted down then it doesn’t take effect. If it’s approved by the voters, then it takes effect Jan. 1, 2020.”

Absent the board’s decision to allow the law to be subject to a referendum allowing residents to vote, the local law would ultimately be the board’s decision on whether they establish a sole assessor.

“They are trying to take the office of assessors out of the political realm. They want to take it out of politics,” said Supervisor Sheila Perry.

She said the law was presented to both the town of Broadalbin and Oppenheim because they are the only two towns left in Fulton County with three elected assessors rather than one sole, appointed assessor. Also due to the election cycle this year, all three assessors’ positions are up for election.

However, several town residents spoke against establishing a sole assessor, along with a select few who were in favor of the local law.

Those against the local law also spoke about their Constitutional right to vote and to “not fix something if it isn’t broken.”

One speaker, Barbara Marone, handed a petition for referendum with more than 300 signatures to the board.

“The main issue here is we have right to vote, a right to speak and a right to bear arms,” Marone said. “The people who have [a] sole assessor hate it.”

Laurie Bollock, one of the three assessors for the town also spoke against the town establishing a sole assessor.

“I am not saying the three member board works. Sometimes it’s a bit dysfunctional,” Bollock said. “What I am saying is this, a three member board is exactly that. It’s three different opinions and it’s checks and balances.”

She said if she were offered the sole assessor position for the town, she would not accept it.

“I have principles,” Bollock said. “I wouldn’t take a job I don’t believe in.”

Former town assessor Buck Gasner, who served 20 years, spoke in favor of the town establishing a sole appointed assessor.

He said about 20 years ago the town was in the same position as they were Tuesday night with wanting to appoint a sole assessor, but 20 years ago he was in favor of keeping three elected assessors.

“The one regret I have in my time that I spent serving this town is the fact that we didn’t put a sole assessor in place,” Gasner said. “This is a business type of position and needs to be a professional one.”

However, Gasner’s one concern with going sole assessor is he does not think a part-time sole assessor would be a good idea because it would not give them enough time to get all the work done.

“So, here we are 20 years later talking about the same thing, how well is it working if we’re talking about the same thing again?” Gasner said.

Real estate broker Junell Pasquarelli, who has worked with several town assessors, said she is in favor of the three elected assessors.

“What I do like about the three member board is that they can bounce things off of each other,” Pasquarelli said. “When you deal with a sole assessor, they seem to think ‘It’s my rules, you either like it or you don’t.’ With all of the townships that I do deal with, I can honestly say most of them are super hard to get a hold of.”

One concern town residents expressed was what would happen if the person appointed as sole assessor isn’t right for the job since it would be a six-year term.

Perry said the town board would be able to ask for that person’s resignation.

Perry then gave a statement before closing the public hearing.

“This is neither a sudden call for change, nor a reflection on our present office holders,” Perry said. “This is a change the town of Broadalbin has been trying to make since the early 1990s. To take the job of assessor out of politics. Twice over the last 25 years it has been put on the ballot and defeated. Now, the state has changed the process, and the towns can make the change by adoption of a local law by the town board.”

She said since she has been supervisor she has made attempts to give the town options to contract with the county for different assessing services. One option being a resolution from the town to support the formation of a data collection unit in the county. However, Perry said she could not get any support from the assessing department, therefore the town couldn’t return the resolution supporting it on a county level.

“I, for one, will be voting yes for this law,” Perry said. “I do not believe the selection of the person tasked with creating the basis for our taxation should be through a political process. The goal of the town is simply finding the best possible road to a tax role that is as current, correct and equitable as possible.”