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Editorial: Less grief on Grievance Day

Editorial: Less grief on Grievance Day

Process improved, but far from perfect

Schenectady probably won’t have as many aggrieved taxpayers demanding relief this year — last year’s bumper crop was attributable to the then-just-completed property revaluation. And while those who do grieve should find it a bit easier to be heard due to some procedural changes that were grudgingly approved by the Board of Assessment Review, the process still has the potential to irritate the heck out of city taxpayers above and beyond the degree their assessments have done so.

The city council has been pressuring the assessment review board since last year, but — as usual — failed to complete the task in a timely manner. Several council members remain dissatisfied with the new procedures, but it’s apparently too late to circumvent them by passing a last-minute law.

The council did manage to get the board to relax some of the rules that led to last year’s debacle: Property owners will be able to file their paperwork in advance of G-Day, May 25, so they won’t all have to line up hours in advance to do so. They’ll also be able to consult the city’s tax roll on the county Web site, instead of trucking down to City Hall to compare their assessment data with their neighbors’.

But appointments for specified times are still out. So when G-Day arrives, depending on what number they’ve been assigned, they’ll have to guess when their hearing is — and show up at City Hall well in advance, lining up to reclaim their paperwork on time. So there’s still plenty of potential for the kinds of irritating traffic jams that occurred last year.

And when their turn finally arrives, they’ll still only have three minutes to present their case. That may be enough time for some people — professionals and others with experience — but to novices unfamiliar with and intimated by the process, it seems unfair.

Finally, the board is sticking with its limit from last year of only three grievances per person — an obvious effort to foil professionals who’ve been hired to represent the aforementioned novices. The pros may be a thorn in the city’s side because they know what they’re doing, but that hardly seems like a valid reason to penalize them and the taxpayers they represent.

The city council is taking a wait-and-see approach at this point because with time running out, that’s all it can do. But instead of negotiating with the assessment board next year, it really ought to address this issue by passing a law.

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