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Volume 10 - Opinions of Counsel SBRPS No. 40 (rev.)

Opinions of Counsel index

Tax maps (public access) (archival maps); Public records (tax map) (archival copy) - Public Officers Law, § 87; Real Property Tax Law, § 503:

Archival tax maps must be permanently retained as public records along with the tax rolls to which they relate.

Our opinion has been requested concerning whether the public has access to the tax map of a prior year. A Freedom of Information Law (Public Officers Law, Art. 6) request was made, requesting a copy of a map from a prior year. The county in question retains microfilm copies of its tax maps, but, because the map is subject to ongoing revision, it has been the policy of the particular county to discourage or even deny access to archival tax maps. The issue here is whether this policy is a correct one, and whether the Freedom of Information Law request should be granted. We disagree with the policy and believe that access should be allowed.

Tax maps are to be prepared and maintained in current condition (Real Property Tax Law, §503). Each year, the county director of real property tax services is to provide each assessing unit with either new map sections or necessary changes to existing maps (10 Op.Counsel SBRPS No. 2). These maps are to be available with the tentative assessment roll and are to be current as of taxable status date (9 NYCRR 189.16(b); 3 Op.Counsel SBEA No. 35). When a tax map has been approved by the State Board, reference to the tax map number is deemed a sufficient description of any parcel in such map for purposes of an assessment roll where the tax map is used to identify parcels (RPTL, §502(2); 9 NYCRR 190-1.2(b)(2)). Assessors must use tax maps in preparing assessment rolls (RPTL, §503(1)), and tax maps are to be integrated with assessment and tax rolls (6 Op.Counsel SBEA No. 22).

Since the tax map is used to describe the parcels listed on an assessment roll or tax roll, it must be kept and made available in conjunction with such rolls. That is, since a tax roll is a public record which must be permanently retained (e.g., RPTL, §.946), it necessarily follows that the tax maps applicable to that roll must be permanently retained. This permanent map retention is recognized in the Records Retention and Disposition Schedule CO-2 issued by the Local Government Records Bureau of the State Education Department’s State Archives and Records Administration (p. 89, item 6b). {1}

The Freedom of Information Law provides that all government records are public unless they fit within one or more of the statutory exceptions (see, Public Officers Law, §87(2)). In our opinion, an archival tax map does not fit any of the exceptions, even though a more current map may now exist. It must be made available for public inspection and copying.

May 13, 1992
Revised April 20, 2001


{1}  Section 57.25 of the Arts and Cultural Affairs Law prohibits local officials from disposing of public records without the consent of the Commissioner of Education. Schedule CO-2 includes a series of retention periods for use by county officials.

Editor’s note: This opinion, originally issued in 1992, has been revised to delete therefrom a discussion of rules of the State Board of Real Property Services (9 NYCRR 185 et seq.) which were repealed subsequent to the issuance of the original opinion.

Updated: