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Nashua seeking new assessor

NASHUA – Nearly one year after eliminating the position of chief assessor, Nashua officials are again working to find someone to fill the role.

However, even at an annual salary of up to $114,929, they can’t seem to find anyone to take the job. And Administrative Services Director Kim Kleiner believes she knows why.

“I hear from conversations that I have within the assessing community that the publicity around what’s going on, the challenges, things that the public have raised definitely impact someone’s choice on whether they want to come here,” Kleiner said.

During the last year, city leaders have seen several controversies with the Assessing Department. Much of this involves the numerous right-to-know requests filed by Berkeley Street resident Laurie Ortolano, as well as allegations that employee Greg Turgiss regularly took naps while on the job.

Kleiner believes what is not realized is the great staff working in the department. She also believes the city is offering a very competitive pay for the person who comes in and takes on this role.

“There’s a lot of room for someone to really grow the department and continue moving it forward,” Kleiner said. “There’s great challenge, but there’s also great reward.”

Kleiner said they have had a couple of applications so far, but they are looking for someone who has specific talent, with strength on the residential side of things, they also need strong commercial experience, as well. Kleiner said it would be helpful if a job candidate had experience with Assess Pro since they just updated their system to AP5.

“I think we need a strong individual who is also able to mentor our staff on assessing related items and for that you really need to be a very experienced and knowledgeable certified assessor,” Kleiner said. “That’s not a knowledge base that I have – while I bring more of the business and the process experience. I always say this and this comes back to haunt me – I’m not a certified assessor. I’ve been through a few classes, but certainly it is a field that there’s a wide range of knowledge that you can only learn from doing the job for a number of years.”

Kleiner said it typically takes years to get a certification. Right now, the department has four assessors – two residential and two commercial. There is also an administrative supervisor.

Despite the absence of a chief assessor, Kleiner said the department has operated well. David Cornell of Cornell Consulting has been assisting the department, and is now developing their dashboard management tool, which will bring a lot of information in one area that officials can gather. Kleiner said Cornell also wrote the audit of the department last September that was given to the Board of Tax and Land Appeals (BTLA).

While Kleiner believes operations are going extremely well, she said the lack of a chief assessor does create challenges when she has other departments and other initiatives to tend to, such as dedicating time toward the city’s rising health care costs and working with Human Resources on that.

As it is, in this administrative role, Kleiner plans and directs the operation of the Administrative Services Division, to include Human Resources, Information Technology, GIS, Purchasing, Assessing and Risk Management. The person in Kleiner’s role performs an integral role in budget planning and the city’s fiscal policy, developing and executing short and long-term city projects, and coordinating (on behalf of Mayor Jim Donchess) with departments outside of the division.

Kleiner said the city is also open to hiring assessors from other states who are eligible to apply for certification in New Hampshire. Meanwhile, improvements have been made in the department, including developing a manual, working with Cornell on best practices and taking recommendations from his audit and putting some of those procedures in place and improvement and upgrade of Assess Pro to AP5.

Additionally, the full measure and list is expected to begin next month. The city also selected Vision Government Solutions to complete the upcoming full measure and list.

There will be a public start-up meeting at 4 p.m. March 2 in the City Auditorium discussing data collection and how Vision is going to gather their data. Kleiner said this will help residents know how the process works. Kleiner also said the New Hampshire Department of Revenue and staff from Vision will be in attendance.

This multi-year contract costs the city $1.13 million, and Vision was the lowest bidder. It is possible that the full measure and list could begin before a chief Assessor is hired, although Kleiner is hopeful officials hire someone soon.

“It’s a big project and it’ll be very difficult for the staff and I, but we’ll make it happen. We will make it happen, but it would be much easier if there was a chief on staff,” Kleiner added.

Adam Urquhart may be contacted at 594-1206, or at aurquhart@nashuatelegraph.com.

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