NEW BREMEN Accepting what eventually could lead to a $14,000 request from the state for repayment, the New Bremen Town Council unanimously voted to appoint a new town assessor Monday night. The measure was followed by applause and cheers from the 30 residents at the meeting when Robert B. Ball was appointed for a six-year term to start Oct. 1.
During public comment before the vote, the council heard opinions from taxpayers, none in favor of reappointing assessor Erin C. Gratch. The board considered those opinions, along with the recommendation of a four-person citizens committee that sat in on executive session interviews with Ms. Gratch and Mr. Ball, assessor for the towns of Greig, Wilna and Martinsburg.
Dr. Samuel P. Yancey addressed the board, delivering a list of approximately 550 signatures requesting the board not reappoint Ms. Gratch. Dr. Yancey stopped short of calling the document a petition, instead calling it a survey.
He said he, along with several other volunteers, gathered the signatures from residents with ease. He did acknowledge, however, the collection of signatures did not include discussion of the potential repayment to the state, which could arise from the dissolution of a Coordinated Assessment Program agreement between New Bremen and the town of Watson.
The agreement, signed in 2006, has been the source of confusion for New Bremen. Breaking the contract could mean a loss of funds from the state that are given as incentive for shared assessors.
Supervisor Peter J. Keys said he has asked the states Department of Taxation and Finance for clarification but received few answers. The towns copy of the agreement shows it to expire at the end of this year. The states copy has the date omitted. Mr. Keys said he was told such agreements are always for a 10-year term.
Mr. Keys asked how it can be determined which town is held responsible for terminating the agreement if both do not agree on an assessor, but he did not receive a definitive answer.
New Bremen council members, at a previous meeting, asked Watson Supervisor Virgil E. Taylor to consider appointing a new shared assessor. Mr. Taylor informed New Bremen officials his board would reappoint Ms. Gratch without discussion.
Questions emailed to Geoffrey Gloak, spokesman for the state Department of Taxation and Finance, were partially answered. When asked whether there have there been other municipalities that have opted out of their CAP agreements, Mr. Gloak wrote, Yes across the state.
Requested information on which municipalities had opted out, how much was repaid and how the funds were collected were not answered. He did explain the repayment formula.
Look at how many years are left of the 10 years since aid was paid. If three years are left, the locality would pay back 30 percent of the aid. If the CAP dissolves after 10 years have passed, no repayment is necessary, Mr. Gloak wrote.
Mr. Keys, at a previous meeting, took issue with waiting out the 10 years for the agreement to expire, as every appointed assessors term in the state expires at the end this month. All appointments are six-year terms and therefore never align with the CAP agreement.