Sunday, March 25, 2012

Martha Sanford, Assistant Assessor, Speaks Out

I have heard twice this week that people, including one Town Council Member, think that the Assessor's Office employees sit around for four years just waiting for the next revaluation period.  It was then I realized that I had to let the public know that we are not wasting your tax dollars being inactive.

I have worked here for twenty five years and enjoy it immensely.  We have made great improvements in the Office in the past couple of years and we have finally come together as a cohesive group.  Not only that but the Town has spent money wisely, preparing us to continue with our career choices and to better serve the public.

The Assessor and I are both Connecticut Certified Assessors II. The Statistician is a Connecticut Certified Assessor I and the technician will be taking her Administrative Assessors Technician exam soon.  The Statistician will continue to obtain her II rating and the Technician will continue towards her certification.  This procedure allows the Town to have educated employees who are familiar with the process as years pass and employees leave.  All can jump into the running of the Office if someone has an extended leave and provide uninterrupted continuity.  We all have knowledge of the State Statutes that our Office must follow.

The Technician's main goal is to have all land records up to date.  I am proud to say that many appraisers are surprised how up to date our record keeping is compared to other Towns.  I'm sure you're saying no big deal but this process is not simply entering new owners on land records.  She has to investigate each document filed in the Town Clerk's Office to determine that the correct property is transferred, combined, split and, most of all, that the Schedule A attached to a deed actually matches the property being transferred.  Many times she is dealing with Attorneys' offices because the description is from an old deed that doesn't match what is really taking place.  Other times, the ownership doesn't flow as it should because name changes have not been filed.  She is usually the first person at the counter to greet the public unless she is busy on the phone.  Her position does all filing, contributes with the mailing process of Personal Property, prepares all large mailings, prepares most purchase requisitions, processes all mail and corresponds with taxpayers either through email, writing letters or telephone.

The Statistician's main goal is processing exemptions for the blind, Social Security disabled, Veterans disability, Active duty Military and Veterans Disability based on income.  She also works with the PA 490 land use records, farm, forest and open space.  Some of you may be saying no big deal again but all of these records have to be updated with each Grand List so it is not a one-time process.  Applications have to be mailed and filed yearly. All applications have different deadlines and reports filed as required by State Statutes.  This position does all of the pricing for our Motor Vehicle un-priced Grand and Supplemental Lists.  There is a tremendous amount of time spent investigating pricing, especially trailers and large trucks.

Both of these positions complete most corrections on Motor Vehicles.  Think of all the taxpayers you know who have purchased new or used vehicles each year, moved, totaled or junked their cars.  All have to bring acceptable documents to the office to get the bills prorated.  This is an on going process through the year as transactions take place.

The Assistant Assessor's goal is to process applications for the Elderly and Disabled State Program and Town Ordinances enacted by the Town Council.  Determination has to be made for eligibility, percentage of ownership and calculated for abatements.  I am in charge of the Town Ordinance for the Volunteer Abatement Program.  I process all changes to the Assessor's Maps.  Zoning, Planning, Building, Wetlands, Fire Marshall, Tax Office, Town Clerk and Public Works departments all rely on our map and lot system to do their jobs.  If the Town had a computer system that all offices were connected to it would start with map and lot and each department could then enter records pertaining to one account that all others could use but it doesn't currently work that way so each department has the ability to go online and locate the property they need, although all information is not available.  I process all Personal Property Declarations for mailing with the help of the Technician and Statistician.  Locating new businesses takes up a lot of time prior to this mailing.  After mailing and receiving, I then calculate and assess. It's a very difficult process because the owners of a business actually report what they own.  They actually report, with the knowledge of how much they will probably have to pay based on the amount filed.  I assist the Assessor with measuring and valuing of new construction whether it's a new structure, deck or addition.

With regard to the Assessor,  I'm not sure anyone knows how lucky we are to have Kathy Conway as our Assessor.  We have worked together many years and her integrity and job ethics are incredible.  Her belief is that all tax payers should be treated equally.  She works harder than any Assessor I know.  She is involved in all aspects of this Office.  Her main concentration is on Real Estate and court cases but she is always available to us to share her knowledge and to make decisions on all procedures if need be.

No employee in this office has ever thought there were enough hours in a day to complete all we have to accomplish.  We have been called names and we have been verbally abused by the taxpayers at times but we still enjoy our profession.

I have written this off the top of my head but I'm sure I have forgotten much and have left out some smaller tasks that we do in our daily workday that leaves us less time for our major tasks.

When you think of cutting positions, I believe that the first thing that should come to your mind whether you are writing the Budget or are a taxpayer voting on it is how will the Town run if this Office cannot do the job you have entrusted us to do.  If you cut our Department then we won't need any other Town departments because there will be no money to collect for roads, entertaining the Seniors, running sports programs for the adults and kids, or giving at Social Services. Simply, without Finance Departments there is no Town.

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