I recently had the great pleasure of attending my first Association of Towns Conference in New York City. It was exciting to be there representing the New York State Assessors Association, getting the chance to meet so many other individuals from all over NYS that work at the local government level.
I must admit, I was a little overwhelmed; there were over 1,600 attendees at this conference, and unlike our conferences, I would be lucky if I knew a handful of the attendees. For almost two full days, we manned the booth, taking questions, handing out pamphlets, discussing our legislative agenda, even a random Golisano question, but most of all, consolidation questions. Yup! We were asked about consolidation, on numerous occasions. There was one question, however, albeit asked in different ways that seemed to come up more than I would have ever imagined. It seems that a clear majority of attendees at AOT, seemed rather confused with exactly what we, Assessors, do! Not only that, but we were also asked some mundane questions with regards to taxation in general. I am not pointing this out to lay shame, I am simply pointing it out, well, to make a point.
During my 6-hour car ride home, I got to thinking. How can this be? How it is that people in charge of multi-million-dollar budgets, really do not understand the process? Simple. The process is not simple, and many of the people attending AOT are from smaller communities, where Board Members most likely have other occupations and are not full-time politicians like those in Albany.
Last month I read the book The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg. My one take away from the book, that I would like to share with you here, is how we need to be in the Assessor’s office. It seems more pertinent now than in the past, but we must be: RELENTLESS! We must continue to push the understanding and the importance of fairness and equity. We must be RELENTLESS in our pursuit for transparency in government. We must be RELENTLESS with our Town Board’s, to help them understand what we do, and just how difficult it can be within the confines of an ever-changing tax law. We must be RELENTLESS in our conversations that consolidation, at the Town level, will not work! And if it is tax savings you are looking for, there are viable alternatives.
My pledge to you is this: The New York State Assessors’ Association will be RELENTLESS in attempting to bring to the foreground the issues of our association, to assist our members in receiving the training to do the highest quality of job possible. We must do more! We have to do more! We will now be and continue to be RELENTLESS!