Schenectady County

Town assessor off to a busy start

Craig Surprise barely had time to move into his office in Town Hall before his calendar started fill

Craig Surprise barely had time to move into his office in Town Hall before his calendar started filling up.

Since being appointed last month, the new town assessor has busied himself with mailing out state school tax relief exemptions and catching up on recent property sales, as is customary during the start of the year. But Surprise, a retired National Grid operator, has also contended with a steady flow of residents still disgruntled over property value changes stemming from Rotterdam’s first ever revaluation last year.

“I sort of hit the ground running,” he said Wednesday morning after already meeting with four property owners. “This is our busiest time of the year.”

Before the filing deadline for the tentative roll in May, Surprise is hoping to review as many neighborhoods as possible for discrepancies. So far, he said much of his work has focused on the normal day-to-day functions of the assessor’s office.

“I’m really not here to judge the last roll, I’m here to pick up,” he said.

In Rotterdam, Surprise said his goal is to keep the roll as up-to-date as possible, with the anticipation of undergoing another full revaluation in six years. He said the next reassessment shouldn’t stir near the controversy as the one completed last year.

“You can’t let it go for 40 years,” he said. “The first one is the toughest.”

Surprise replaced John Macejka Jr., who served since 2003. Some residents were critical of Macejka after he signed the assessment roll produced by GAR Associates, the private company hired for the revaluation.

Supervisor Steve Tommasone said Surprise will earn roughly $62,000 annually, which is about $5,000 more than Macejka earned in 2007. He said the new assessor may also get some part-time staffers to help update records before the grievance process in March.

“We’re going to need some additional professional experience in the office,” he said.

Surprise was the part-time assessor of New Lebanon in Columbia County; he oversaw the town’s first private revaluation in 1990 and personally conducted a full reassessment of its 1,465 parcels in 2007.

Surprise also serves as the part-time assessor of Petersburgh, a town with about 1,013 parcels in Rensselaer County. He intends to keep both his part-time jobs in addition to working full-time in Rotterdam, which has more than 12,000 parcels.

Surprise lives in Grafton, Rensselaer County, about 35 miles from Rotterdam. Tommasone said the arrangement could benefit Rotterdam because Surprise comes to the town free of political or familial connections and can be more impartial.

“I’ve had residents tell me they’re very satisfied with him,” he said. “I’m sure time will bear out that he was the right person for the right time.”

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