Supervisors defend decision to pass on assessment grant

NORWICH – The Chenango County Board of Supervisors was questioned by one of its own this month regarding a decision made to pass up on a state grant opportunity that could have streamlined property tax assessments and collection procedures.

In a letter to fellow supervisors, Janice O’Shea, R-Coventry, said the county should reconsider applying for at least one of the grants offered via the New York State Office of Real Property Services. The letter was not shared with the media, but O’Shea said in a telephone conversation Tuesday that she felt “the opportunity should be revisited.”

Members of the Finance Committee discussed O’Shea’s request at a meeting April 3 and agreed to reply to her, reconfirming the county’s position on what they said was akin to “accepting carrots with strings attached.”

“I call this usurping local authority,” Treasurer William Evans said. “They (the state) use the word ‘streamlining’ which is a nice word.”

Chenango County is one of a small handful of counties that did not apply last year for a portion of a $3.6 million grant that was delivered to most counties in the state on March 20, including neighboring Otsego, Broome, Madison and Cortland. In awarding the money, Governor David Paterson said that “streamlining our property tax system ... will make local government more efficient and result in lower property taxes for New Yorkers over the long run.”

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