2008-05-17 / Potter County News


Citizens have one more chance to fire questions and share their input with the Potter County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday night, when they hold the last in a series of five town meetings at the Oswayo Valley High School in Shinglehouse.

The session, which starts at 7 o'clock, is open to everyone, the commissioners said. Residents of the Oswayo Valley School District and surrounding communities are especially invited to attend.

Commissioners Doug Morley, Susan Kefover and Paul Heimel were called upon to explain the county's 31-year-old real estate tax assessments during their most recent town meeting, held Thursday night in Ulysses.

The dialogue was sparked by a question from Northern Potter School Superintendent Scott Graham, who explained how the county's outdated assessments have robbed local school districts of state subsidies, which are based in part on a district's real estate values.

Morley acknowledged that the commissioners have fielded similar questions at town meetings in Austin, Coudersport and Galeton. He said they are not going to "run from the issue."

A revaluation of real estate throughout Potter County could result in discovery of "the lost city" - properties that have slipped through the cracks and are not shown on the county tax rolls - Morley added.

Heimel said the most important argument for reassessing county real estate is tax fairness. He added that, after a reassessment, some property owners would pay more, while others would pay less.

"It all comes down to changes that have occurred in the real estate market over the past 30-plus years," Heimel added.

Commissioner Kefover said speculation that the county would incur a multimillion dollar expense by hiring outside experts to reassess real estate was not necessarily accurate.

"It's possible that we could have our own people professionally trained to do it," she pointed out.

A major portion of Thursday's two-hour dialogue focused on job creation options. Kefover summarized several recent success stories in attracting employers, some of which remain confidential.

One citizen complained that the types of jobs that have been created will not keep the skilled work force, particularly technology employees left jobless by the Adelphia bankruptcy, from moving out of Potter County.

Morley suggested that employees with technical backgrounds band together and work with the commissioners and other public agencies in Potter County to market their skills.

Discussion was also held on options for delivering high-speed internet access and wireless phone service to northern Potter County; the advisability of strong county regulations to control location of wind turbines in the region; possible tax incentives and other inducements to attract and retain volunteers for emergency service organizations; lack of enforcement of building code standards on Amish-owned properties; restrictive state environmental regulations affecting township governments, and gaps in the rural transportation network, particularly services for senior citizens.

Heimel discussed several actions the commissioners have taken in response to suggestions presented at the previous town meetings and assured the audience that Thursday's issues would be addressed.

Morley added that the commissioners will be holding town meetings across Potter County throughout their four-year term of office. He commended the five superintendents of schools in the county for agreeing to host and organize the meetings.

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