Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
Town creates new assessor post

By Kym Soper
Journal Inquirer
February 25, 2008

VERNON - The mayor and Town Council have created a new position in the assessor's office that they say should save money in the end.

Town Assessor David Wheeler made the proposal last week to eliminate the department's vacant assessment technician position and replace it with a newly created assessment specialist at a higher pay scale.

The specialist position would require a more highly skilled person who would better serve taxpayer needs and increase town revenue, according to Wheeler.

He says he expects net savings of $43,300 annually, which is the yearly salary of the assessment technician. The specialist position would be paid $53,000 annually.

Once filled, the specialist would continue the technician's clerical duties, which accounts for 70 percent of the job. But they will also staff the front office and be able to answer technical questions from the public that now pull supervisors from other tasks, Wheeler said.

Freeing up the assessor will, in turn, allow the department to slash consultant fees by $14,000 per year, reduce revaluation expenses by a minimum of $25,000 per year, and produce additional revenue of at least $14,000 per year as a result of increased personal property inspections and audits, he said.

According to Wheeler's numbers, between consultant fees and the assessment technician salary the department now spends $110,300 a year without bringing in additional revenue. Under the new system, the department will spend a total of $67,000 annually in salaries and fees, and conduct even more work, leaving a difference of $43,300, Wheeler said.

"Not only will this upgraded position save the town money on our expense side, but more importantly, it will increase revenue on the taxation side," Wheeler said, adding, "We'll be saving money without sacrificing quality."

Wheeler initially brought the proposal to the town council last year, but the Republican-led panel said they wanted more information before deciding. Last week they voted unanimously in favor of the plan.

Council member Daniel Anderson said the changeover in positions had merit, but wanted to see follow up numbers detailing the types of inspections the specialist conducted along with the results of benefits to the town.

Wheeler says that in Vernon there are about 1,200 personal property accounts that are examined in five-year cycles. Because of staffing issues, not all businesses are inspected on a timely basis, he said.

©Journal Inquirer 2008