Register-Star Profile on Ian Nitschke in His Race for Claverack Town Assessor

Ian Nitschke takes on incumbent Charles W. Brewer in the Race for Claverack Town Assessor

Published: Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Ian Nitschke, 67, Claverack, lived in the county 16 years
Previous residence:  Albany, Syracuse

Office being sought: Assessor
Endorsements received: Democratic Party, Claverack Party
Previous elected offices, if any: None

High school: Concordia College, Adelaide, South Australia
College: Adelaide University, Syracuse University

Degree(s): B.Sc. (Honors), Ph.D.(Physics)
Military service? None

Salesperson (1993-2004) Associate Broker (2004-Present) Peggy Lampman Real Estate, Claverack NY. Specialize in historic and architecturally interesting homes and country properties.

Utility Management Analyst (1995-2003) Energy Efficiency Analyst (1990-1995) Worked to develop and evaluate incentives to encourage electric utilities to implement some of the most aggressive and cost-effective energy efficiency programs in the nation, saving hundreds of millions of dollars for homeowners.

Senior Associate and Research Director, The Fleming Group, Syracuse, NY (1981-1989) Managed pioneering building energy research projects with subcontractors from Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory and the Harvard School of Public Health with research results presented worldwide.

Assistant Professor of Physics, Eisenhower College, Rochester Institute of Technology (1979-1980)
Adjunct Lecturer, University College of Syracuse University (1980)
Lecturer/Post-Doctoral Intern/Teaching Assistant, Physics Dept., Syracuse University (1966-1979)
Teaching Assistant, Physics Dept., University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada (1965-1966)

Ever been convicted of a crime? No


Columbia-Greene Board of Realtors, National Association of Realtors, Claverack Neighbors, Claverack Democrats, The Olana Partnership, Hudson Opera House, Historic Hudson, Columbia County Council for the Arts, Columbia County Chamber of Commerce, Hudson River Heritage, Scenic Hudson, Preservation League of New York State.

Friends of Hudson. Testified in Athens Gen proceedings that the proposed plant would adversely affect scenic views and historic resources. Acting as my own counsel and expert witness, developed environmental Testimony, cross-examined witnesses, and wrote several detailed Briefs. Provided similar resources for the St Lawrence Cement proceeding, eventually totaling 700 pages that were submitted to the New York State Department of State who ruled that the cement plant should not be built.

Clover Reach. Founded Clover Reach to enrich Claverack's heritage, charm, and vitality. Clover Reach was awarded the 1996 Historic Preservation Award from the Columbia County Council for the Arts and grants totaling $4,800 from the New York State Preservation League. Organized a Historic House Tour and Receptions that raised additional expenses for placing 16 Claverack historic properties on the National Register of Historic Places.

Preservation Association of Central New York. Member of the Board of Directors responsible for the administration of a Syracuse house museum and the preservation of historically significant landmarks in a five-county area.

Syracuse Urban Cultural Park Committee. Appointed by the Mayor of Syracuse to develop plans to set aside and interpret historically significant urban sites. Identified the commercial potential of unused industrial sites along Onondaga Creek that have since attracted hundreds of millions of dollars of investment.

Past Professional Memberships. American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE); Air & Waste Management Association (A&WMA) [formerly the Air Pollution Control Association]; The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS); American Physical Society (APS)

Son: Jonathan Nitschke 36 year-old chemistry lecturer and researcher at the University of Cambridge, England, and father of three-month old Leila Nitschke.
Daughter: Anna Nitschke 23 year-old currently living in Schenectady.
Wife: Peggy Lampman, Columbia County native and owner of a 23-year-old thriving local business, Peggy Lampman Real Estate.

Top three issues facing your town:

The New York State Office of Real Property Services provides Annual Aid to municipalities that keep assessments at 100 percent of market value. This enables taxpayers to understand and determine whether they are over assessed in a straightforward way each year.

However, Claverack has not been systematically reassessed since 2004, one of the longest periods of any town in the county. The Office of Real Property Services estimates that 2009 Claverack assessments are only at 67 percent of market value, one of the lowest rates in the county.

Meanwhile, our sister town, Kinderhook, has maintained assessments at 100 percent of market value for each of the last eight years and has been rewarded with State Aid totaling about $150,000. Unlike in Claverack, Kinderhook’s tax rolls are up-to-date, accurate, fair, with no need for school and county tax adjustments across boundaries.

With my background in real estate, research, analysis, teaching, and as a former state worker, I’m ideally suited to work with the Office of Real Property Services, the two other Assessors, and Claverack property owners to tackle the important job of updating the tax rolls fairly, honestly, and with integrity. I have deep respect for the people of Claverack, and would carefully listen to grievances, and make sure property owners understand assessments by providing informational workshops and office hours.

Claverack properties are typically reassessed only when they change hands, based on the purchase price of the property, rather than a systematic review of all properties in the town on a regular basis. That means that people are being penalized for buying homes in our town: whether they are a local young couple buying a house for the first time, retirees downsizing, people relocating to the area, or second-home buyers. They are all bearing an unfair tax burden, and this is unacceptable at a time when we want to encourage families to buy a home in Claverack.

The result is extreme variations in tax bills for Claverack residents. It is not unusual in Claverack for two comparable homes to have extremely different assessments. This is patently unfair and possibly illegal (see Krugman v Board of Assessors, Atlantic Beach, New York).

As tax assessor, I would review the tax rolls to ensure that homes are valued appropriately and legally. The result would not be a reduction in overall tax revenues for the town. If every home is assessed appropriately, taxes will be applied fairly and consistently to all residents and there should be little change from year to year in individual property taxes for the majority of homeowners.

There are many opportunities in Claverack and Columbia County for efficiencies, cost control, and assessment reform.

The most obvious first step for Claverack is to take advantage of current aid programs offered by the State of New York. This includes the Annual Aid Program mentioned above, which Kinderhook has taken advantage of over the past several years, providing more than $150,000 in aid.

Another possible area of opportunity is a move to a Countywide Department of Assessment, successfully used by Tompkins County. It is estimated that this would save Columbia County approximately $200,000 per year although there would be one-time transitional cost of approximately $1,000,000 with a payback period of about five years. (State grants have the potential to reduce this cost). In a Countywide Department of Assessment, a common level of assessment, a single reappraisal cycle, and a single consolidated database would be used to provide accurate, consistent, fair, and equitable assessments.

A valuable tool that has emerged in the field of property valuation is Geographic Information Systems (GIS). A well-defined and thought-out GIS program has the ability to integrate geographic data into assessment valuation and greatly improve the accuracy of assessments and control costs.