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Democrats Cite Precedent in Push for Fewer Elected Officials

Democrats say current economic times require elimination of three elected positions in Southold but Republicans are not convinced there will be a significant savings.

Smaller government is usually a Republican battle cry, but this year Southold Democrats are trying to eliminate three elected offices within the town.

Democratic Tax Receiver Candidate Bill Edwards is running on the platform to abolish the position currently held by (if he is elected) and town Democrats chose not to run a candidate for assessor because, Democratic Chairman Art Tillman said, the party does not believe three elected assessors are necessary.

Tillman said if Edwards were to win next Tuesday, he would lobby the Town Board to eliminate the position. According to Tillman, other towns in New York are eliminating elected tax receivers.

According to published reports on Syracuse.com and the Utica Observer-Dispatch, several towns in upstate New York have already eliminated the position. Camillus Town voted to abolish the position in September and New Hartford will be voting to abolish the position next Tuesday.

Southold Town Clerk Elizabeth Neville said comparing Southold Town to upstate towns is not an accurate comparison of workload.

“Places upstate are different. Many are not in populated areas and some clerks actually operate from their homes,” Neville said.

Neville said that no one has asked for her opinion or for information on how such a transition might work.

“Quite frankly, it would still require the tax receiver’s staff. I don’t believe we could do it without additional personnel,” Neville said.

Neville has four employees in her office, who she said are all busy and could not absorb the responsibilities of the tax receiver’s office. Another point Neville made was that the tax receiver’s clerks work on a completely different schedule from that of her current staff.

Tillman said because residents are allowed to pay their taxes through the banks, the position of tax receiver is antiquated and unnecessary. Once the tax receiver position is eliminated, he said, the existing staff would move into the clerk’s office.

“This has nothing to do with Mr. Sullivan personally. It’s about savings for the town,” Tillman said.

Moving the tax receiver’s office into the clerk's office and cutting back on assessors has been explored in the past, Neville said. When a group called TaxPac was active in the town in the 1990s, she said, a study was done but showed there would “not be much of a savings” if the position was eliminated.

Tillman said a study done in the 1990s is not relevant today and the current financial climate necessitates cuts where possible. He believes political parties should not play a part in home assessment and that having elected assessors “smacks of political favoritism” in the tax office. He believes professional assessors from outside the town should be hired in civil service positions.

, who is running unopposed, takes exception to Tillman’s claims that the town’s elected assessors are not “professionals.” Duffy said all three assessors are advanced certified assessors and she has been a certified assessor for 20 years.

As elected officials, Duffy said, they can forgo raises while civil service employees have contracts with raises built-in.

Tillman said his research showed the larger Village of Hempstead has one elected assessor and two clerks in its office. He was unaware if the department had field inspectors or draftsmen.

According to Duffy, larger towns may have fewer assessors but Southold does not hire out separately field inspectors or draftsmen because the assessor do those jobs already.

William Swiskey sr November 03, 2011 at 12:54 PM
Eliminate the three positions save $150,000 there, cut bennies for P/T elected officials, Save $250,000 here. Guess what the tax increase is almost wiped out. We save $1,000,000 in less then 3 years. The bull that the tax receivers work will over tax the comptroller or clerk is Bull. Check it out after Jan. the county gives the town the unpaid taxes and takes over collections, This would be a good story for the patch to look at. It. Both sides are posturing, let's look at it for what it is a sound business decision.
forward thinking November 03, 2011 at 01:06 PM
i agree lets get real facts - while i agree on some points bene.'s are a negative impact on production and quality of employee and "going the extra mile" if we all who have "operated" business think about it salary is not what keeps employees from leaving - its quality of life - which is why we are in southold town - we pay taxes for the quality - try up west taxes like wading river / shoreham
Sandy Martocchia November 03, 2011 at 01:45 PM
Bill, just because the elected officials would be cut under the Democrats proposition, does not mean the positions would be cut. In the assessors department the idea is to put civil service employees there instead.
William Swiskey sr November 03, 2011 at 02:54 PM
Good people are listening, I wish the DEMS. and GOP would sit on channel 22 and present the voters with there take on the pros and cons of this issue say this Fri. or Sat after 7.30 PM ,so people can watch. Even Sun,. would work. Then a reasonable decision can be made
forward thinking November 04, 2011 at 02:40 AM
amen bill i agree - but unfortunately personal political agendas would rule - i have looked in their eyes (not all) and see honesty and evaluations of positions and decisions that were against the grain. (las vegas trip highway) the osprey quick and correct.. while i disagree on bene.'s with you i understand your position - unfortunately only time will tell...taking the tax rec. position away would only add union (heavy bene.'s) to the clerks office ---- i firmly believe there are ways to increase revenues just like i have done in church and business. this is a positive approach to fiscal responsibility...

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