Mayor Gary McCarthy spoke adamantly against a reassessment Monday night, urging the Schenectady City Council to wait — possibly for years.
He asked them to let him fix up the city first.
Most council members seemed disinclined to argue with him publicly about it, but they did take up the issue of a dangerous dogs registry. In that case, McCarthy bowed to pressure and agreed to post addresses of dogs deemed in court to be dangerous. The dogs found to be dangerous this year will be posted on the city’s website today, he said.
But he asked for more time before a reassessment, in which every property in the city would be analyzed and its assessment changed to match approximate market value. Each owner’s tax bill is based on their property’s assessment, so incorrect assessments can cost owners dearly. The council has refunded more than $180,000 this year alone after owners successfully argued that their assessments were wrong.
But McCarthy said the city shouldn’t do a reassessment now. “I want to clean up some of the problems,” he said, adding that the city should first “eliminate the worst of the blight.”
He said a reassessment should wait until after the city demolishes properties using a federal loan the city will receive this year.
But that’s not all. Before a reassessment, he also wants the local land bank to get a state grant that could be used for more demolitions.
“It will get rid of the worst of the worst and start to create value,” he said, estimating that houses within 1,000 or so feet would increase in value if the blighted property were removed.
He also tried to slow down the council by warning of major costs.
“How do we line up the money to begin to pay for it?” he asked.
He had previously estimated that it could cost $3 million.
But the last reassessment, in 2009, cost about $500,000. And that included a year of data collection to determine details about every property in the city.
Councilman Vince Riggi challenged the mayor’s cost concerns.
“The data’s pretty current,” he said, suggesting that the city would not have to redo it.
McCarthy acknowledged that, saying, “It is, in theory, pretty good.”
But he warned that the city might have to hire consultants to analyze property sale trends. “Just the reality of it, it takes a couple years,” he said.
Riggi said the city should get started. “My concern is the inequality,” he said. “The [assessment] roll is skewed. It’s something we have to address.”
The council didn’t come to a decision Monday.
On the dangerous dogs alert, McCarthy reluctantly agreed to post the addresses for dogs deemed dangerous after court hearings this year. But he dismissed the idea as worthless.
“We’ll put the four up. It will not solve the problem,” he said.
Dog owner Rebecca Cigal had asked for an alert after her dog was killed by two dogs who leaped from an open window and ran across the street to attack.
The dogs had attacked two other dogs previously, and had been deemed dangerous. Cigal said that if she’d known that, she would not have walked near their house.
The caretaker for the dogs in question said she, too, would support a dangerous dogs alert because it could prevent attacks. Lindsay McKearn said she wished with all her heart that her dogs had not been able to get out and attack Cigal’s dog.
“If they did have something like that [alert], that would probably have changed the outcome of this incident,” McKearn said. “In all honesty, I think it’s a good idea.”
But McCarthy said the alert, which was initially proposed by Republican Assemblyman James Tedisco, was just a publicity stunt designed to “get headlines.”
“The fundamental thing we’re doing is a more aggressive push to get dogs licensed,” he said. He added that he was sure residents could easily find out where those dogs lived.
“It’s readily available,” he said, adding, “Most of the events have very detailed accounts in the press.”
But the Daily Gazette had only one brief news item regarding a dog attack this year — and four dogs have been deemed dangerous. Incidents where dogs attack other dogs are rarely covered, unless one dog dies.
Riggi said the city should provide a simple database on its website, making the information easy to find.
“I want to know, if I’m walking down Campbell Avenue, that there’s a dog that’s been aggressive,” he said.
McCarthy said that wouldn’t help. “The problem is not the dogs, it’s the owners,” he said.
Riggi shot back, “But the owners aren’t biting them. It’s the dogs.”
After Councilwoman Marion Porterfield joined his side, McCarthy gave in and promised to start publishing a database today.
“But that doesn’t address the fundamental problem,” he said.