If Southold Town Democrats have it their way on Nov. 8, Town Assessor Darline Duffy would see her department shrink by two assessors. But as she runs for re-election this year, Duffy said that just would not work for Southold.
Since the Democrats are not putting up an opponent to run against her, Duffy, 60, said she is running against the concept that Southold Comparing Southold to larger towns on Long Island that have only one assessor does not paint an accurate picture of what assessors do, she said.
To make the point, Duffy said she called her colleague in Brookhaven Town to find out how his office operates. Duffy said he told her Brookhaven has one elected assessor, a deputy assessor, eight field inspectors and draftsmen for a total staff of 38 people. In Southold the assessors have a total staff of five and a half, including the three assessors.
In Southold, Duffy said, all the assessors are field inspectors and draftsmen and they all are advanced certified assessors. They have divided the town into three quadrants, so that each assessor is familiar with the houses and properties within each quadrant.
“I actually see your house and I know what you’re talking about,” she said.
Duffy said it’s easy to throw the idea of one assessor out there, but she said it “steams” her that the Democrats think the town should hire professional assessors instead of having elected ones. She said she might be an elected official, but she is a professional assessor.
Duffy has been an assessor for 21 years; prior to that she was a real estate agent for 10, making her knowledgeable about properties and comparable sales within the town.
She constantly hears from residents that their taxes are too high, which she said she understands because she is a town taxpayer, too. However, she said taxes in Southold Town are lower than much of Long Island. A house in Southold that is worth $450,000 in the Southold School District will have $5,600 in taxes, while a house with the same value in Miller Place will have $9,400.
“Southold is still a bargain to live in,” Duffy said.
Trying to tell people whose house values have dropped 18 percent that their tax bills will not drop accordingly is a reality the assessors face daily, she said.
The job has changed in the 21 years she’s been in it. With all the discounts offered to tax payers, assessors need to go through tax returns and know what to count and what to discount on the bill. She said she has to know more about real estate law, appraisals, and accounting and has to take many of the same classes real estate professionals are required to take.
She said she enjoys working with the people in town and working with real estate.
“I love this office and I love the town,” she said.