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Volume 3 - Opinions of Counsel SBEA No. 75

Opinions of Counsel index

School districts (omitted assessments) - Real Property Tax Law, §§ 421, 512, 550, 1316:

Where a school district resolves to tax real property pursuant to Real Property Tax Law, section 421, but fails to notify the assessor of such decision before his books are closed, the assessor and the school district should enter the real property on the next assessment roll as taxable for school district taxes due for both years.

We have received an inquiry requesting our opinion as to the liability for school taxes of certain real property owned by the Watchtower Society. Although the school district acted by resolution to make such property subject to taxation pursuant to paragraph (b) of subdivision 1 of section 421 (i.e., § 420) of the Real Property Tax Law, it failed to notify the assessor of this action and the books were closed without a notation as to the authorization to tax such property. The question is whether the board of assessment review may order the necessary change to make such property taxable for school purposes.

The board of assessment review may order changes on the tentative assessment roll solely upon receipt of a grievance complaint filed pursuant to section 512 of the Real Property Tax Law. Complaints may be filed by owners of the real property in question or by persons who have a derivative form of ownership or an equitable interest in such real property (Application of the Board of Education of Central School District No. 1 of the Towns of Ontario et al., Wayne County, 61 Misc.2d 858, 306 N.Y.S.2d 833). We presume that a complaint by the owner of the property was not before the board of review.

A school district has no authority to determine the taxable status of real property; such determination is made in the first instance solely by the assessor and it is reviewable solely by the board of assessment review and the courts. The school district has no standing to challenge the assessed value of a particular parcel of property which it does not own (Central School District No. 1 of Towns of Ontario et al., Wayne County v. Rochester Gas and Electric Corporation, 61 Misc.2d 846, 306 N.Y.S.2d 765; Application of the Board of Education of Central School District No. 1 of the Towns of Ontario et al. Wayne County, supra), and the only method by which it may challenge the taxable status of real property is to commence a proceeding pursuant to Article 78 of the Civil Practice Law and Rules to order the assessor to enter certain property on the taxable portion of the assessment roll.

In our opinion, the proper method to pursue in this situation is for the assessor and the school district to enter the real property in question on the 1974 assessment roll as taxable for 1974 and 1973 school district taxes. The assessor may take this action pursuant to section 550 of the Real Property Tax Law and the school district may act pursuant to subdivision 4 of section 1316 of the Real Property Tax Law. The real property in question cannot be made taxable without prior notice to the owner of such real property, and such notice must, in our opinion, be in the form of a tentative assessed value appearing on the roll open for public inspection on June 1st. When such assessment and omitted assessment become final on the roll open for inspection on August 1st, then the school district may act pursuant to section 1316(4) to add the property to the school tax roll for both the current and the preceding year.

September 13, 1973

NOTE: Construes law prior to L.1974, c.177, which repealed Sections 550 and 1316 of the RPTL and enacted the “correction of errors” provisions in title 3 of article 5.

Updated: