The man the mayor wants as the next city assessor does not have the six months’ experience required to become an assessor under state law.
Ed Waterfield said he has never performed the duties of an assessor, including appraisal work and analyzing sales to determine market values.
The state requires candidates for sole assessor have at least six months of paid experience, but Mayor Gary McCarthy said Waterfield could get that experience simply by being appointed to the position.
He’s allowed to pick anyone he wants, regardless of qualifications, for a six-month term, he said. By that point, Waterfield would have the experience to qualify for the job.
City Councilman Vince Riggi was stunned to hear Waterfield didn’t meet the requirements.
“Why don’t we hire an assessor?” he said, “one that’s already had the training needed. The simple solution is hire someone who’s qualified.”
But McCarthy said he wanted Waterfield.
“I don’t mind going out on a limb for Ed Waterfield,” he said. “He’s the best one for the job.”
He said Waterfield would be willing to change city assessments in response to house sales instead of defending the city’s rationale for the assessment. In some cases, houses in the city now sell for much less than their assessment.
“You can’t just tell people, ‘This is the assessment, live with it,’ ” McCarthy said. “If you have a house assessed at $100,000 and you buy it for $92,000, you might be able to explain the $100,000. But the $92,000 might be the proper number to put it at because of the sale. Have some common sense.”
He added he thought Waterfield would have the courage to apologize and change the assessments in those cases.
“I want somebody with common sense. The problem is, people have done things without common sense, with a level of arrogance and isolation,” he said. “You have to be able to say, ‘You know what? The city made a mistake.’ ”
But Riggi said changing assessments after a sale would be a bigger mistake.
“Then what do we do with the adjoining properties?” he asked. “If somebody buys a house across the street from me [and gets their assessment reduced], then it’s not fair to me. In my opinion, that’s not the way to do it.”
Those owners could use that house sale as an argument for an assessment reduction at the annual Grievance Day, where owners can argue for lower assessments.
But Riggi said it wouldn’t be fair. He called it a “piecemeal” reassessment.
“We obviously need a citywide reassessment,” he said. “It’s skewed already. The people who haven’t grieved are subsidizing everyone else.”
Riggi said he would rather have an experienced assessor come in to handle Schenectady’s complex situation.
But Council President Margaret King said she wasn’t concerned by Waterfield’s lack of experience.
“I’m fine with it,” she said. “I know he’s been a really good employee for the city.”
Waterfield is the supervisor of the Bureau of Receipts. In that role, he handles irate taxpayers who must pay interest and other fees. McCarthy said that experience would serve him well in the Assessment Department, where he would have to handle angry property owners.
King said she thought that trait was important.
“He’s just a good person,” she said. “I’m just a real believer in promotion from within whenever we can do it.”
A total of 12 people applied to become the city’s next assessor. Four had experience as assessors, but none of those candidates lived in Schenectady. In the applications, one told the city he would take the job for $85,000 — unless he had to move to Schenectady, at which point he would require a salary of $105,000.
McCarthy refused to extend Assessor Tina Dimitriadis’ contract because she refused to move into the city. He chose Waterfield partly because he lives in the city.