Proposed Solution on Property Tax Reform
Tompkins is one of two county-wide assessing units in New York State. Nassau County is the other one; however Nassau still has local assessing offices, while everything is done in one centralized location. Tompkins consolidated in 1970, not to save money, but to improve and standardize the assessing function.
Tompkins County staff reports surprise that other counties have not gone to this form of assessing. By consolidating, Tompkins County is able to retain a professional appraisal staff and all documents are available for public review during normal working hours. (By contrast, there is an actual town in New York State where documents are available in the appraiser’s garage on the third Thursday of the month from 7-9 PM.) In addition to the efficiency and professionalism gains, there is an obvious cost savings. For the 2004 budget presentation, the county concluded that by consolidating the assessment function at the county level, the taxpayers of the county saved approximately $765,000. (The current departmental budget is $940,000.) Countywide assessment is the norm for the majority of states.