Skip universal navigation

New York State Universal header

Skip to main content

Volume 3 - Opinions of Counsel SBEA No. 79

Opinions of Counsel index

Assessment (transfer of function to county) - N. Y. Const. Art. IX, § 1(h)(1) ; Municipal Home Rule Law, § 33-a:

Cities, towns, and villages are prohibited from transferring the assessing function to a county unless such function is transferred by adoption or amendment of a county charter subject to referendum, including the “split referendum” requirement where transfer from cities or villages, as well as towns, is involved.

Our opinion has been requested concerning the options open to the county board of supervisors to effect county assessment.

Under existing provisions of the Constitution of the State of New York, cities, towns and villages are required to prepare assessment rolls, and are prohibited against transferring the assessing function to another unit of government, unless the assessing function is transferred by adoption or amendment of a county charter subject to referendum, including the “split referendum” requirement where transfer from cities or villages, as well as towns, is involved.

Article IX, section 1 (h) (1) provides as follows:
Counties, other than those wholly included within a city, shall be empowered by general law, or by special law enacted upon county request pursuant to section two of this article, to adopt, amend or repeal alternative forms of county government provided by the legislature or to prepare, adopt, amend or repeal alternative forms of their own. Any such form of government or any amendment thereof, by act of the legislature or by local law, may transfer one or more functions or duties of the county or of the cities, towns, villages, districts or other units of government wholly contained in such county to each other or when authorized by the legislature to the state, or may abolish one or more offices, departments, agencies or units of government provided, however, that no such form or amendment, except as provided in paragraph (2) of this subdivision, shall become effective unless approved on a referendum by a majority of the votes cast thereon in the area of the county outside of cities, and in the cities of the county, if any, considered as one unit. Where an alternative form of county government or any amendment thereof, by act of the legislature or by local law,provides for the transfer of any function or duty to or from any village or the abolition of any office, department, agency or unit of government of a village wholly contained in such county, such form or amendment shall not become effective unless it shall also be approved on the referendum by a majority of the votes cast thereon in all the villages so affected considered as one unit.

Section 33-a of the Municipal Home Rule Law (called the County Charter Law) contains the following provisions with respect to the transfer of local governmental functions:

1. Subject to restrictions in the constitution, in this article or in any other applicable law, the board of supervisors of any county may, by local law, transfer functions or duties of the county or of the cities, towns, villages, districts or other units of government wholly contained in such county to each other, or for the abolition of one or more offices, departments or agencies of such units of government when all their functions or duties are so transferred.

2. Any such local law, or an amendment or repeal of one or more provisions thereof which would have the effect of transferring a function or duty of the county or of the cities, towns, villages, districts or other units of government wholly contained in the county, shall not become operative unless and until it is approved at a general election or at a special election, held in the county by receiving a majority of the total votes cast thereon: (a) in the area of the county outside of cities and (b) in the area of cities of the county, if any, considered as one unit, and if it provides for the transfer of any function or duty to or from any village or for the abolition of any office, department, agency or unit of government of a village wholly contained in the county, it shall not take effect unless it shall also receive a majority of all the votes cast thereon in all the villages so affected considered as one unit. Such a local law, amendment or repeal thereof, shall provide for its submission to the electors of the county at the next general election or at a special election, occurring not less than sixty days after the adoption thereof by the board of supervisors.

December 12, 1972

NOTE:  But see Opinion 9-73.

Updated: