As assessors retire, county contracts with towns for service

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LITTLE VALLEY — The Cattaraugus County Office of Real Property Tax Services is partnering with a half dozen towns to provide assessing services after the municipal assessors retired.

Daniel Martonis, director of the Office of Real Property Tax Services, started the pilot program two years ago after two towns asked for help because their assessors were retiring.

The requests from the towns of Great Valley and Otto were followed by New Albion, Persia, Machias and Dayton, with offers to pay the county the same amount they paid their town assessor, Martonis said.

“We just started getting into it when I told the legislators a lot of town assessors were retiring,” he said.

That pilot program is still growing, with another seven expected to partner with the county in October. And there are 10 more towns that have expressed interest of having the county take over when their assessors retire, Martonis said.

That would bring the number up to 23 out of 32 towns.

It is not county-wide assessing, Martonis emphasized. The county is simply doing the work under contract with the participating towns.

Not all towns will want to give up the responsibility, but that too may change.

The need to keep an up-to-date assessment of properties in a town requires occasional revaluations of the municipality. A revaluation can cost a town over $100,000 — and in the day of the 2 percent property tax cap, that price is out of reach for most towns, Martonis said. Once a municipality has been revalued, it is easier to keep assessment current.

The county Office of Real Property Tax Services has two assessor aides, Martonis said. One will be promoted to assessor and another assessor aide will be hired. There is a data collector as well, and Martonis also works on assessments.

“The towns are coming to us,” he said. “If we can, we are taking them. We’re here as an option to the towns if they want to partner with us for assessing duties.”

Martonis said the same thing is happening throughout the area in Allegany and Wyoming counties, as assessors look to retirement.

Will the day ever come when the county’s Office of Real Property Tax Services does all the assessing in the 32 towns — true countywide assessing?

It may, said Martonis. It would take all 32 towns to make that request. There is still some reluctance to that, he said.

“We’ve still got some good (town) assessors doing some good work,” Martonis said.

Published in the Olean Times Herald, Apr. 4, 2019.

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