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Council vote puts property reassessment on hold

A citywide property reassessment will not begin in Olean anytime soon because the mayor's proposal to contract with an appraisal firm was defeated in committee Tuesday night.

The city has not performed a revaluation for more than 40 years, and assessments are uneven and in need of adjustment. Aldermen say they agree the procedure is overdue and will help the city's financial problems, but they wanted the mayor to assure them that the city can afford the $254,150 cost.

Mayor David Carucci told the aldermen during a committee-of-the-whole meeting that the costs will come back to the city within five years, with the first payment of $128,475 to the appraisal firm coming from tax collections in May. He also pointed to upcoming savings that he hopes will result from police and fire union contract negotiations.

He said the state will reimburse the city $5 a parcel for conducting the revaluation, or about $150,000, within five years, and at the end of three years the assessment work will be taken over by in-house staff. Additional money will accumulate because the city will no longer lose grievance cases, he said.

Before the vote, Ward 5 Alderman Jefrey Steiner said he would prefer to wait to commit the funds until the 2007-08 budget is prepared and until the union contracts have been negotiated.

"Then we will have a better picture to know what we are looking at," Steiner said, adding, "It's better to see [the figures] all together."

Carucci said in that case the aldermen may have to wait two years if the union talks go to binding arbitration.

Ward 4 Alderwoman Linda Edstrom and Ward 2 Alderman Michael Kayes also questioned the source of the funding but spoke up in support of moving forward with the reassessment. The two cast the only votes in favor of the measure.

After the meeting Carucci refused to comment on his next move.

During the meeting that followed, Carucci challenged the lawmakers after they voted in favor of naming the city lead agency in the construction of the East Olean pump station and sewer replacement.

"Tell me how you are going to pay for a new pump station," said Carucci, referring to the recent revelation that $1 million of a dedicated capital fund had been used to meet the city's cash flow needs.

After a heated exchange in which Edstrom told Carucci that she expects these matters to be discussed before the vote and that she would refuse to vote for anything that cannot be paid for, Public Works Director Tom Windus was called to the podium to explain that the city has two years to begin construction under the terms of a $550,000 federal grant.

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