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What you need to know for 08/22/2017

A better plan for Schenectady assessor's office

A better plan for Schenectady assessor's office

Appointing acting assessor could buy time to prepare Waterfield

Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy appears to have pulled a rabbit out of his hat with the appointment of former county real property director Nicholas Barber as acting assessor, and he makes no bones about his ulterior motive to move and merge the assessor’s operation into the Bureau of Receipts’ office, where none other than his choice for permanent assessor, Ed Waterfield, runs things.

Barber’s appointment, depending on how long he sticks around and what he can teach Waterfield in the interim, would bolster McCarthy’s argument for making Waterfield his assessor and giving him a healthy raise — assuming he can figure out a way to save the city money by merging, in part, the two offices’ operations. Obviously, that would mean not replacing Waterfield with a new Bureau of Receipts chief.

It remains to be seen whether Waterfield can be brought up to speed quickly enough to get certified as an assessor and make the transition. Barber, who is retired, has only signed on for six weeks — and he can’t earn more than $30,000 annually because of his pension. But since he’s only being paid $1,000 a week, he could work through the end of this year and well into next, running the office and training Waterfield all the while, so that when he finally does leave, Waterfield would have at least some of the qualifications he needs to serve as full-time assessor.

That he has no assessment experience and is uncertified were two major problems with his candidacy. Yet McCarthy wanted to give him the job primarily, it seemed, because of his personality: He’s apparently a go-along, get-along kind of guy. That kind of thinking is cause for concern because a good assessor should, to some degree, remain aloof and independent of the political process so as not to be influenced by it.

In any case, the current vacancy in the Schenectady assessor’s office, as well as one in Rotterdam’s, makes this an opportune time for the county — or at least the two abutting municipalities — to explore the possibility of sharing a single assessor rather than having one for each municipality. Not only would it allow for significant economies of scale in terms of office management and occasional property revaluations, but more uniform, fairer, assessments for all.

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