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Solid information is important for towns

The town of Pine Plains is planning ahead as it undertakes an important project ­— property data collection — under the leadership of the Board of Assessors. Though the process usually leads straight into a property reassessment, Board of Assessors Chairman Jim Mara is careful to stress that is not necessarily the case here and the data collection is strictly that — a chance to collect updated information on all town properties so property record card data can be reconciled with what actually exists.Mara has been at Town Board meetings for the past two months to talk about the need for data collection, hiring data collectors and getting board approval to begin the project. His presence has proven once again why Pine Plains is so fortunate to have him helm the Board of Assessors. Mara is a straight shooter who takes time to explain to the public exactly why such projects are necessary, with both respect and patience, and he never fails to invite the community to get in contact with him or his colleagues should anyone have questions. He is also very good at his job.It must also be mentioned that the other two members of the Board of Assessors, Scott Chase and Rick Chapman, also serve the community well and should be lauded for their work.Chase, who also attended the last Town Board meeting, said it was in 1987 when the town last took a comprehensive look at property values (too long, by any estimation); properties need to be kept up-to-date in order to ensure they are valued fairly and equitably. Completing townwide data collection also helps make sure all properties are part of the town’s inventory. This should not be feared or resented — it’s a good thing, truly. These are very important components in guaranteeing property owners throughout the town end up paying their fair share of property taxes when the time comes. Otherwise, some could be paying too little when they pay their property taxes, and, conversely, some could be paying too much.Again, the town of Pine Plains is not beginning a reval right now. It is simply starting to collect data. That is something the assessors want to make very clear. That being the case, property owners should expect a pair of data collectors (although the pair may split in the future) evaluating their property. The men should have proper photo ID (their pictures are in this week’s Millerton News), a camera and under no circumstances should they request to enter the interior of one’s home or business. If they are asked inside, the data collectors should “respectfully decline,” according to Mara. For more on the process see Page A1. If property owners feel uncomfortable or have any questions, they are urged to contact the assessors’ office at 518-398-7193. Do not engage or interact with anyone other than those whose photographs are pictured in this week’s paper, as no one else is currently authorized to tread on private property.The good news is that Mara and his colleagues are looking toward the future — they know that down the line a property revaluation will probably be needed. Data collection will have to be done as the first step in that process. So although no one is committing to a reval at this point, getting the data collection completed just makes good sense; once that is done, the Board of Assessors can see where it leads. Clearly, their value is just as high as the many properties to be evaluated throughout town.

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