NAUGATUCK — Officials are hoping that spending money will make the borough money.
The Board of Mayor and Burgess unanimously voted Nov. 23 to increase the salary range for the assessor position from approximately $56,000 to between $65,000 and $90,000.
“What we need and what I’m asking for is a first class, topnotch assessor to grow the grand list in the future and generate more revenue for the borough of Naugatuck.” Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess said.
The request for a higher salary comes after former Assessor George Hlavacek resigned in October amid concerns from officials on how he was running the department.
“We are not collecting as much money as we should be. We have a serious issue in the assessor’s office,” Hess said.
Among the issues discussed last week was businesses were receiving tax exemptions longer than they should have.
Tax Collector James Goggin said businesses are able to file for exemptions for their personal property taxes. These exemptions are supposed to last up to five years. However, interim assessor Joyce Allegi found six businesses that have been receiving exemptions longer than that, Goggin said.
Four of them were into their sixth year and two of them were already into their eighth year of the exemption, he said.
Ending these exemptions will add approximately $163,000 to the borough’s grand list, according to officials.
Human Resources Director John Lawlor said the borough pays its assessor significantly below the average of similar-sized municipalities.
According to data Lawlor collected from the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities and the Connecticut Association Assessing Officials, municipalities in Connecticut with 20,000 to 40,000 residents pay an average of $97,800.
Lawlor also presented a study that showed the average salary for an assessor in nearby municipalities is just over $73,000, with the highest being $100,000 in Shelton.
“We feel that the salary range of $65,000 to $90,000 will allow us to better advertise the position and get a quality person in that position and get a salary that’s commiserate with the responsibilities,” Lawlor said.
Lawlor said the requirements for the job will include a minimum of seven years of municipal assessing experience and a Certified Connecticut Municipal Assessor designation. The position is non-union and 35 hours a week.
Deputy Mayor Robert Neth said the assessor job is one of the most important positions in the borough.
“There are two components in the town that are worth their money. One is the controller and the other is the assessor. If you lack in those two areas this town is in trouble. The assessor’s position over the last few years we’ve lacked and we know,” Neth said. “It’s extremely important that we have somebody that’s very good.”
The borough advertised for the positon after Hlavacek resigned. Lawlor said the borough received three responses, one of the candidates had no municipal assessing experience.
The two candidates with assessing experience were a part-time assessor and an assistant assessor. Both were making more money in their current positions than the borough was offering to pay them to be a full-time assessor in Naugatuck, Lawlor said.
Hess said the borough ultimately isn’t just looking for someone with assessing experience. Hess wants an assessor who will work with him and Controller Robert Butler to help grow the town.
“When you look at comparable towns we have a lot more properties than they do, more complex properties, a larger volume of properties, and less people in the office,” Hess said. “We’re really looking for a superhero who’s real sharp to come in, catch up on the backlog, work with a smaller number of people, a larger number of problems, and then move forward and be aggressive and take us into the future.”