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Volume 11 - Opinions of Counsel SBRPS No. 117

Opinions of Counsel index

Assessment review (alternative grievance day where assessor serves multiple jurisdictions) - Real Property Tax Law, § 512:

Once a town changes its grievance day by local law pursuant to section 512(1-a) of the Real Property Tax Law, that change remains in effect, unless the local law is repealed, notwithstanding the fact that the assessor, whose multi-jurisdictional employment provided the rationale and the legal basis for the change, has been replaced by another assessor who serves only the one town.

Pursuant to section 512(1-a) of the Real Property Tax Law, Town A, whose previous assessor also served as such in Town B, changed its grievance day. The current assessor, however, serves only Town A, and we are asked if Town A must rescind its local law and return to the generally applicable grievance day of the fourth Tuesday in May (RPTL, §512(1)).

Section 512(1-a) of the RPTL provides, in relevant part:

The governing body of an assessing unit which employs an assessor who is at the same time employed by another assessing unit may adopt a local law establishing a date for the meetings of the board of assessment review other than that provided in subdivision one of this section. The date or first date so established may be no earlier than the fourth Tuesday in May and no later than the second Tuesday of June. Such local law shall remain in effect until rescinded or superseded by subsequent local law (emphasis added).

Since an assessor is statutorily obliged to attend all hearings of the board of assessment review (RPTL, §526(4)), section 512(1-a) was adopted (L.1992, c.609) to facilitate this obligation by assessors who serve in more than one jurisdiction. [Ed. note: Chapter 606 of the Laws of 2008 amended sections 525(2)(a) and 526(4) of the RPTL to permit an assessor who serves as such in multiple jurisdictions to designate one or more staff members to appear in the assessor’s stead at the board of assessment review hearings.] Clearly, before a town can change its grievance day from the fourth Tuesday in May, it is a prerequisite that its assessor also serve as assessor in another jurisdiction.

However, the emphasized sentence in the above-quoted section 512(1-a) is also clear in providing that, once a local law is adopted to change grievance day, it remains so changed until and unless the local law is rescinded or superseded. It is axiomatic in interpreting statutory provisions that words therein “are to be given their usual and commonly understood meaning, unless it is plain from the statute that a different meaning is intended” (McKinney’s Statutes, §232). Based on this, in our opinion, once a town changes its grievance day per section 512(1-a), that change remains in effect, unless the local law is repealed, notwithstanding the fact that the assessor, whose multi-jurisdictional employment provided the rationale and the legal basis for the change, has been replaced by another assessor who serves only the one town. Of course, should the town choose to rescind its local law and return to the statutorily prescribed grievance day, it may not again change such date unless it again employs an assessor who also serves as such elsewhere.

January 15, 2008

Updated: