Syracuse beefs up assessment department with new deputy commissioner

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Mayor Ben Walsh today announced that he has hired a new deputy commissioner of assessment, adding staff to a department that has struggled to keep up with changing property values in the city.

Matthew Oja, 36, of Syracuse, will earn $65,000 as the new deputy commissioner. He previously worked as senior appraiser at CNY Pomeroy Appraisers. A lawyer, Oja has more than a decade of experience in real estate valuation and development.

Assessment Commissioner David Clifford said the addition of Oja will bolster a department that lost personnel over the years due to cost cutting. There are now nine employees, compared with 24 when Clifford joined the assessment department in 1985, he said.

“They say, ‘Do more with less,’ but you get to a certain point where you can only do less with less,’’ Clifford said. “We have reached that point.’’

City officials have said they struggle to keep assessments up to date with rising property values in some neighborhoods, which can lead to unfair tax bills. The city has only enough personnel to review a fraction of the 42,000 properties each year.

Oja will work with Clifford and First Deputy Commissioner Ann Gallagher to train appraisers, study market conditions and to evaluate assessment roll trends, city officials said.

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