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Letter to the Editor: Changing Assessments for Political Purposes Improper

Written By Timothy Knight on 12/1/14 | 12/1/14

After reading several news articles concerning the pending sale of the Guilford Mills property I find myself compelled to respond. One article quotes County Treasurer Bill Cherry saying “the county never asked Cobleskill Assessor Alan Danforth to lower the assessment because a higher number makes the plant look more attractive”. While I won’t comment on whether the tactic is effective or not, I can’t stand silently by while our elected officials attempt to pervert the assessment process and deceive would be buyers of the property. But what is perhaps even worse is the lack of indignation or even concern by the local paper’s editorial staff concerning blatant and overt injustice in our tax assessment system.

The sole responsibility for determining and assigning an assessed value to a property lies with the Town Assessor. The Schoharie County Treasurer, the Schoharie County Board of Supervisors, or even a Town board should have no bearing or influence on the process. Mr. Cherry’s comments and the local paper’s subsequent portrayal indicate that the County has interfered with Mr. Danforth’s assessment. This is highly irregular and improper. Mr. Danforth has no option but to assign the correct assessment for every property within his jurisdiction. On each tentative assessment roll issued by the assessor Mr. Danforth must sign and attest that he has assigned the correct values. Either Mr. Danforth believes and can justify an assessed value of 4.5 Million dollars or he has violated his oath of office and sworn statement.

If what has been reported is true, some serious ethical and legal violations have occurred. Manipulating assessment values is a serious offense with severe implications for all county taxpayers. By inflating the assessment of the Guilford property every tax payer outside of the Town of Cobleskill and Cobleskill Richmondville School District has paid more than their fair share of property taxes. Meanwhile those taxpayers living in those two tax jurisdictions have paid less than their fair share. Certainly no system is perfect and assessment mistakes can and do happen, but to learn that the Schoharie County Treasurer has willfully and intentionally conspired to manipulate the system goes too far. This action cannot go unchallenged. Therefore I have written the attorney general and asked for an investigation to determine if a crime has been committed.

Of course, we all hope that the sale of the Guilford property goes through and promised jobs come to fruition, but our need and desire for jobs cannot trump government honesty and transparency. We must be disciplined enough to do things the right way. That requires a local press that is able and willing to call out elected officials for their misdeeds not glorify them or sit idly by.

Sincerely,
Robert Mann, Jr.
Blenheim Resident
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