Gurney's Inn
August 09, 2006

Assessing The Future In Southampton

It's official: the Southampton Town Board appointed Ed Deyermond to the position of Tax Assessor yesterday.

Deyermond, who stepped down from his post as Mayor of Sag Harbor to accept the position — he had the same job more than a decade ago — will be replaced by Sag Harbor Village Trustee Gregory Ferraris.

Deyermond replaces Southampton Town's sole tax assessor Brenda Noa, who resigned last month in the aftermath of a recent property tax reassessment that rocked Southampton Town and left residents reeling. Lisa Goree stood in as acting assessor in the interim before Deyermond's appointment.

Noa said her resignation relates to her desire to spend more time at home with her family. Nevertheless, the rumor that Noa was asked to resign after 27 years of service remains prevalent.

"There will always be speculation," said Southampton Town Supervisor Skip Heaney. "I respect those wishes, and have nothing more to say."

Residents left stunned by a reassessment that sent their property values soaring have questions: What's next for Southampton Town? And, in the wake of a flood of grievances filed by disgruntled taxpayers, will the whole reassessment be tossed out, with the town opting to try again?

Not likely, said Heaney: "I don't know why we would," he said. No re-evaluation project is perfect, he continued, pointing out that a resident might have three appraisals and get three different appraisals of the value of the home. "It has less to do with science than art."

Heaney pointed out that typically, there are between 4000 and 5000 grievances in a year and reminded that after a state review, Southampton received certification with rolls at 100% equalization rate, "which is the goal."

Instead, said the supervisor, the answer lies in looking internally and arming staff with the opportunities to hone skills. "We see the need for our employees to have additional opportunities regarding continuing education within that field."

Heaney plans to ask Deyermond to aid in redefining the mission of the assessor's office. "We're asking him to take a look at staffing levels," said Heaney. Deyermond will also be required to participate in a great deal of outreach with residents of the town, such as seniors and veterans who might not have been able to physically travel to town hall and voice their concerns.

Those residents who qualify for the New York State School Tax Relief program "should be made aware," said the supervisor.

When asked if he believed, as do many residents who've been socked by escalating property values in areas such as Sag Harbor, whether the old reassessment should be scrapped, Deyermond was less resolute: "I don't know — it's too premature. But there certainly is an issue in Sag Harbor, and it's being looked at as we speak. There are some abnormalities and they have to be addressed. We've got to get answers to all the questions."

Although Deyermond's first official day on the job is next Monday, Heaney said he's already been in the office.

First off, the new assessor plans to get briefed on "where everyone and everything is, start laying out the issues and needs, and then collect some assets and resources and move on." Part of that task includes getting a count of exactly where the town stands in terms of grievances and establishing procedures for how to deal with the issues, as well as assisting the county. "All these filings are a lot of pressure on the county," said Deyermond.

Sporting 25 years of experience, including 11 as former Southampton town assessor, Deyermond welcomes what some might deem a daunting workload: "I like a challenge," he said.

Heaney said Southampton was fortunate to attract Deyermond back. "He has an extensive knowledge of the hamlets and villages that comprise the township. He has a very good understanding of value. He has a stellar reputation among his peers. He really is the best man for the job," said Heaney.

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