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March 26, 2013

New model for proposed Assessor's Office

WEST NEWBURY — With real estate taxes making up 85 percent of the town’s annual revenue stream, maintaining property values in West Newbury is critical to the viability of the town. That’s why Finance Director Warren Sproul is proposing what he hopes will be a more effective and cost-efficient way to run the Assessor’s Office.

With a vacancy in the full-time chief assessor’s post since last November and the assessor’s clerk resigning in January, Sproul believes now is an opportune time to implement a new employee model in this key department.

His plan is to reduce the chief assessor position to a part-time post of 15 to 19 hours weekly. He then seeks to reorganize the office to create a full-time assessor’s assistant position instead of the assessor’s clerk position.

In addition, he wants to contract on a one-year basis an appraisal firm to “measure and list parcels, perform property valuations, assist the assessor in building assessment tables” — and, in general, handle the field work required of the Assessor’s Office by the state Department of Revenue.

Sproul’s model — employing a part-time professional to head the department — is similar to ones used in Groveland, Merrimac and Haverhill. Full-time chief assessors’ positions are more typically found in larger municipalities, he said.

After two rounds of interviews Sproul has offered the part-time chief assessor’s position to Shelia Hambleton of Nahant at a rate of $40 per hour and a maximum salary of $39,672. Hambleton, who is scheduled to begin work today, will work half days on Tuesdays and Fridays and from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Wednesdays. She will be eligible for 57 hours of paid vacation per year, accrued on a monthly basis.

For the next step in his plan, Sproul will meet with the Personnel Board to create a full-time assistant assessor position. This person will serve as “the face in the Assessors Office” and answer “questions from constituents on behalf on the assessor in her absence,” said Sproul. Unlike the current clerk’s position, the new assistant assessor will be trained in fieldwork and higher level assessing functions and would earn a maximum annual salary of $49,778.

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