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City of Lockport may share assessor with two towns

LOCKPORT – The City of Lockport does not have an assessor, which has often been the case in the past several years as several have come and gone, but it also means that no one has the authority to sign the tax roll or respond to grievances over assessments.

Mayor Anne E. McCaffrey told the Common Council on Wednesday that Michael S. Hartman, the current assessor for the towns of Royalton and Hartland, is interested in serving the city as a temporary assessor to get the city through the assessment challenge season.

According to McCaffrey, Hartman suggested a 15-week agreement under which he would be paid $10,000 to carry out the duties of handling grievances, preparing and signing the final tax roll and answering any small-claims assessment review cases that might be filed in court after the tax roll is posted July 1. Grievance Day, a daylong marathon of hearings by the city Board of Assessment Review, is June 16.

A 15-week part-time arrangement, McCaffrey said, “would get us through the busy time of year in the Assessor’s Office.”

Two women work there now, but neither can assume the legal duties of being the assessor. Last year, McCaffrey appointed one of them, Real Property Appraiser Lena D. Villella, as acting assessor. However, that appointment, which lasted six months and added $7,000 to Villella’s pay, ran out at the end of 2014 and was not renewed.

Villella, the sister of Alderwoman Anita Mullane, D-2nd Ward, was interested in becoming the permanent assessor, but McCaffrey declined to appoint her. The 2015 budget called for an assessor at about $64,000 a year, which was the annual rate at which Villella was being paid as acting assessor. Her regular pay as the appraiser is about $49,000.

Mullane and Alderman John Lombardi III, R-1st Ward, said Hartman’s price sounded high, especially after the mayor said Hartman would be in City Hall only on Wednesdays and as necessary.

Hartman has state certifications and has taken numerous training courses, the mayor said. He’s been assessor in Hartland for the past 10 years, and added Royalton to his portfolio five years ago. He also doubles as code enforcement officer in both towns.

“Both his (town) supervisors say he’s excellent. They strongly recommend him,” McCaffrey told the Council.

Council President Joseph C. Kibler was impressed. “I feel we should hire him. I think he’s what we need up there,” said Kibler, R-at large.

The Council decided to invite Hartman to a work session next week to check him out. Hartman did not return calls seeking comment.