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Jeanne Sager | Democrat

Paul Burckard

After 34 Years,
He's Saying Goodbye

By Jeanne Sager
MONTICELLO — May 29, 2007 — Folks in Sullivan County may not know Paul Burckard, but they know his work.
In the past 34 years, Burckard has served the county’s constituents his way – down to the detail.
The director of Sullivan County’s Real Property Tax Service Agency for the last 291⁄2 of those years, Burckard has been the guy heading up the process that ensures a tax bill arrives in the mailbox of every Sullivan property owner each year.
He doesn’t address them.
He doesn’t determine the total at the bottom of the page.
But Burckard has long been the guy who keeps the process going – the guy who helps ensure Sullivan County can collect taxes to keep the government moving.
Come July 1, that will change.
Burckard is stepping down from his post, retiring at 64 to do some fishing, get out on the golf course and out to Ohio to see his four grandchildren – to simply enjoy life with wife Theresa.
He’s confident his successor, assistant county attorney Linda Levine, has the acumen to handle the task.
Still, she’ll have some mighty big shoes to fill.
Ask Burckard what he does for Sullivan County, and he launches into a litany of tasks covered by the Real Property Tax Service Agency.
Each comes with an explanation – who appointed him, why its mandated.
That’s Burckard’s way.
If you have a question about taxes, you ask Paul Burckard.
He knows the whys, the wherefores and the hows.
And he’ll patiently explain and re-explain them until you know them too.
That’s what he’s known for – his attention to detail, his attention to everything.
Burckard’s 34-year career started almost on accident.
A graduate of the Eldred Central School system, Burckard attended Orange County Community College (OCCC) then left the area to study at the University of Maryland.
He spent a three-year stint serving in the Air Force in the late 1960s then came back to Sullivan County.
With real estate courses under his belt from OCCC, Burckard was selling real estate in his hometown when he met up with then Sullivan County Department of Public Works head Jack McGough in Port Jervis.
Times were tough in real estate in 1974, and Burckard made a crack that got McGough thinking.
“I said, ‘If anything gets any worse, I’m going to have to call you for a job!’” Burckard recalled with a grin.
Three weeks later, he got a call from McGough.
The guy who handled rights-of-way matters for the county was retiring. Would Burckard like a job?
He spent four years appraising properties for the county and negotiating with land-owners to purchase their property so the county could construct some of its roadways.
In March 1978, he jumped to the real property division, taking his current position as director of the tax services agency.
Every day has been full since.
“I have a lot of hats,” Burckard explained.
He’s the county’s corrections of errors officer – putting him in charge of reviewing any mistakes made in the appraisal process.
That could mean a simple mathematical error or the failure to apply an exemption to a particular property – prompting a change in the amount the property owner is required to pay in taxes.
A portion of his job that’s set forth by state law, Burckard said it’s one that requires strict impartiality.
He gave up his post as a member and two-time president of the Eldred Central School Board of Education when he took the real property job because the corrections of error officer reviews errors made on school tax bills.
Burckard serves on other boards in his current role, including the real property advisory board to the Sullivan County Legislature, and at one time representing the county at the New York State Association of Counties.
Burckard’s duties have also made him the damage assessment team coordinator for Sullivan County – putting him at the head of much of the work done to determine the financial cost to the county in times of disaster including the floods of 2004, 2005 and 2006.
He’s helped write laws regarding property taxes, taught assessors both locally and statewide and represented the county in court countless times.
On an annual basis, Burckard leads training sessions for the local boards of assessment review as well as the tax collectors – the latter something Sullivan County is ahead of much of New York in doing.
Burckard’s office of 10 is also in charge of processing deeds, mapping (including a substantial portion of the county’s highly-anticipated Geographic Information Systems project), and apportioning the liens put against property tax bills.
Located right in the heart of the government center in Monticello, the office gets a fair amount of foot traffic with residents dropping in to ask questions about their assessments or take a look at the tax maps.
Burckard said he’s always kept that in mind on days when the work is piling up and the job is getting stressful.
“I’ve always tried to remember who I worked for,” he said, “who paid my paycheck.”
When push comes to shove, Burckard said his guide through the roughest parts of the job has been doing what’s best for the county and the people who live here.
Because his isn’t a job that slows down.
“I can’t say there’s been a day when I came to work where I’ve been bored,” he said matter-of-factly. “I’m never looking for things to do – most of the time there isn’t enough time to get everything done, I’m leaving here with work ready to be done the next morning when I come in.
Shifting gears, he smiled.
“It’s very, very interesting work,” Burckard said. “But the thing I think I’ll miss the most is the people.
“There’s a lot of really, really good people working for the county,” he continued. “They’re conscientious, they’re hard-working, they give 110 percent every day… Sullivan County is fortunate that it has a tremendous workforce.
“I certainly have an office full of them.”
They’re the unsung worker bees of the county, he surmised, because people lack an understanding of what they do.
The county doesn’t appraise properties, and they don’t actually collect the taxes.
In fact, town tax collectors put the money they collect into the town coffers before it makes its way to the county.
The concept of making the municipalities whole can often leave the county short in the end, Burckard explained.
“Here we are, instead of getting our money January 1, it goes to the towns,” he explained. “Then come April, we’re just beginning to see a positive flow and we have to pay out to the school districts.
“It can be hard to keep the lights on!” he added with a laugh.
That’s where his office is so vital – not only does it interconnect with a whole host of other county departments that use the information moving in and out of tax services, it helps ensure there’s a base to keep the county going.
And that could be why Burckard hasn’t gone golfing or picked up a fishing pole in six years.
He’s going to be very busy come July 1, he said with a laugh.
First on his wife’s list is a thorough cleaning of the basement of their Eldred home!
Then it’s off to the golf course or maybe a trip to visit the grandkids or spend time with his kids (son Paul is in Ohio, daughter Kim works for the county as a senior Child Protective Services investigator and daughter Nicole is assistant counsel to the majority leader of the New York Senate).
Burckard will keep his hand in the game – he intends to put more time into his real estate office.
Levine, meanwhile, will become the first real property tax services director in the state to be a former assistant county attorney.
“I’m very confident that Linda will do a wonderful job,” Burckard said.

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