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Volume 2 - Opinions of Counsel SBEA No. 62

Opinions of Counsel index

Board of Assessment Review (powers and duties) - Real Property Tax Law, § 1524:

Any changes on an assessment roll after tentative filing must be made by the board of assessment review. After the board of assessment review has made its final determinations with respect to the complaints duly filed, and has delivered a verified statement of the changes to be made on the roll to the assessor, the authority of the board to act on complaints is terminated. Any meetings or hearings held by the board thereafter are informal only. The board is the proper body to hold administrative hearings prior to trial. The board’s compensation, if any, is fixed by the legislative body of the local government.

Our opinion has been requested as to whether the board of assessment review in Nassau County may function and conduct hearings on a year-round basis, and whether the board has all of the powers to hear complaints and make corrections of assessments that the board of assessors previously had, including the right to hold administrative hearings after a petition is filed with the court and prior to trial.

Pursuant to section 1524 of the Real Property Tax Law, the board of assessment review has the power and duty to hear and determine complaints in relation to assessments, and has all the powers and duties imposed by law on boards of review by section 512 of the Real Property Tax Law and by any other law. Essentially, this means that the board of review may hear and determine all complaints submitted to it, provided the complaints are properly and timely filed.

Before the new assessment equality law was enacted (L.1970, c.957), the board of assessors generally made up the board of review, It was the general practice for taxpayers who felt their assessments were erroneous to contact the assessor, and, in many cases, orally state their complaint. If a taxpayer made a convincing argument, the assessor could make a change on the assessment roll, even though the taxpayer had not filed a verified complaint.

However, with the new requirement that boards of review now be independent bodies, an assessor or board of assessors has no authority to make any corrections on the assessment roll after the roll has been tentatively filed and open for public inspection. In other words (once the assessment roll has been tentatively filed), the assessor has no coterminous authority with the board of assessment review to make any changes on the roll. Any changes made on the assessment roll after tentative filing must be made by the board of assessment review, and only after there has been a properly executed complaint filed with such board.

This, of course, does not preclude the board of assessment review from “functioning” during the remainder of the year. The board of review may meet informally with taxpayers if it so desires. However, until the tentative assessment roll is completed and filed, there is no firm assessment for a taxpayer to complain about. While the assessor is preparing the tentative roll, the taxpayer certainly may go in and talk over his prospective assessment with the assessor, and provide the assessor with any information the taxpayer feels would be helpful in acquainting the assessor with the pertinent facts relating to the value of his property. After the tentative roll is filed, however, the assessor’s authority to make changes ceases. The board of assessment review may hold informal meetings prior to grievance day, but it must hold grievance hearings and is limited in determining changes on the assessment roll to those situations where taxpayers have filed written, verified complaints as prescribed by law.

Further, after the board of assessment review has made its final determinations with respect to the complaints duly filed, and after it has delivered a verified statement of the changes to be made on the roll to the assessor, the authority of the board of assessment review to act on complaints is terminated. Any meetings or hearings the board of assessment review may desire to hold thereafter would have to be of an informal and informational character only.

In the County of Nassau, grievance day is the third Tuesday in May, but the roll is not finally filed until August 1. During the interim between these two dates, the board of assessment review may schedule as many hearing dates as its work load requires. Accordingly, even though there may be a large number of complaints in the County, it would appear that this two and one-half month period would give the board ample time to schedule hearing dates for complainants. In any event, the board of assessment review must verify all changes by the August 1 date, and has no power to make changes thereafter.

As to the authority of the board of assessment review to hold administrative hearings after a petition is filed with the court and prior to trial, the facts indicate that this administrative hearing in the past has been conducted by the board of assessors. Under the provisions of the assessment equality law, the board of assessment review has preempted the right of the assessor or board of assessors to review complaints on assessments. It would seem logical, therefore, that the board of assessment review would be the proper body to hold the administrative hearings prior to trial.

Section 1524(4) of the Real Property Tax Law provides that the legislative body of the local government may resolve to compensate the board of assessment review for its services, said resolution fixing the amount of such compensation.

April 28, 1972

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