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What you need to know for 07/21/2017

Schenectady assessor rescinds retirement

Schenectady assessor rescinds retirement

The city’s assessor isn’t leaving after all.

The city’s assessor isn’t leaving after all.

Patrick Mastro has rescinded his retirement. He was to leave on Oct. 29, accepting an incentive to retire early.

Instead, he’ll stay for at least another year. His contract expires in October 2013.

The decision will cost the city. Mayor Brian U. Stratton had said he would replace Mastro with a cheaper assessor, possibly by sharing the work with Schenectady County. The state’s early retirement incentive was intended to help cities save money by consolidating positions or hiring less experienced workers at lower salaries.

Instead, the city will continue to pay Mastro’s $83,200 salary, as well as setting aside upward of $15,000 to cover his sick time and vacation time buyouts if he retires next year.

Mastro declined to explain why he decided not to retire.

“It was a personal decision, and that’s all I’m going to say,” he said. “There’s a possibility I would retire next year.”

He emphasized that he won’t be forced to retire.

“That’s my decision to make,” he said.

Some residents had viewed Mastro’s retirement as a triumph, saying it validated their complaints about the recent citywide property reassessment. Mastro oversaw the reassessment and was criticized for making occasional antagonistic comments during the process. At one point, he said residents who did not allow data clerks into their houses were trying to hide improvements that would increase the value of their house.

After some disabled and elderly residents complained about waiting in long lines in the heat to protest their reassessment on Grievance Day, he told them that people voluntarily wait in lines for concerts and Disney World rides.

And a few said he made material errors in the reassessment. They are arguing in court that he raised their assessments to match their purchase price while not equally raising the value of similar houses nearby that had not been placed for sale in recent years.

Mastro has lost a few high-profile cases, including one in which he nearly doubled an assessment after finding an old advertisement that described the house in glowing terms. The house failed to sell, and the judge ruling on the case said the city had “no credible evidence” for raising the assessment to the owners’ unsuccessful asking price.

When Mastro announced his retirement, Mayor Brian U. Stratton said there was no connection to the complaints. He praised Mastro for performing the reassessment with city workers, saving the city about $1 million.

Mastro has also defended the project, noting that only a tiny fraction of the city’s owners grieved their new assessments. About 5 percent grieved the first year; this year, 3.5 percent grieved.

Although Mastro is staying, the proposed 2011 budget cuts two of his staff, leaving him with just three clerks.

Mastro urged the City Council to cut only one job when it reviewed his budget Tuesday.

The appraisal technician position, which went unfilled all year, should be eliminated, he said. “We got by without it, we can continue to get by without it.” But he argued against losing the city’s real property analyst, who is slated to be laid off. “Personally I think that cuts it a little too thin,” he said.

City Council members, who are trying to find more cuts, did not seem persuaded. They also questioned whether they really needed to set aside $30,000 next year for retirement buyouts.

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