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Volume 5 - Opinions of Counsel SBEA No. 15

Opinions of Counsel index

County Director of Real Property Tax Services (assessment administration) (Westchester County) - Real Property Tax Law, §§ 1530, 1532:

In Westchester County the duties of the director of real property tax services are to be performed by the chief administrative officer of the County Tax Commission, whether known as secretary or by some other title.

We have received an inquiry as to what effect the provisions of the Real Property Tax Law, Article 15-A, relating to the duties and responsibilities of the county director of real property tax services, have on Westchester County.

Article 15-A of the Real Property Tax Law (commonly referred to as the Assessment Improvement Law) was added by Chapter 957 of the Laws of 1970. Section 1530 was a part of such enactment and requires each county to establish a county real property tax service agency and to appoint a director of such agency. Section 1532, subdivisions 1 and 2, set forth the powers and duties of the director which principally are (1) to prepare and maintain tax maps for each city and town in the county, (2) to provide advisory appraisals to each city and town in the county, (3) to advise local assessors on procedures for the preparation and maintenance of assessment rolls and records, and (4) to assist in assessment training programs. Subdivisions 3 and 4 authorize the county legislative body to optionally assign to the director other related services pertaining to the assessment and taxation of real property.

Subdivision 4 of section 1530, applicable to Westchester County, authorizes a county, which has a county tax commission having powers and duties which include a substantial part of the duties assigned by Article 15-A to a county director of real property tax services, to retain such tax commission. Where the tax commission is retained, the duties of the director of real property tax services are to be exercised and performed by the chief administrative officer of the commission whether known as secretary or by some other title. Subdivision 4 also authorizes such county to adopt a local law making Article 15-A applicable to the county without regard to the provisions of that subdivision. In addition, section 7 of Chapter 957 (Laws of 1970) contains special provisions under which cities and towns in Westchester County may be authorized to prepare and maintain tax maps pursuant to resolution adopted by the county legislative body.

The powers and duties of the Westchester County Tax Commission, established under the county charter, are set forth in section 30 of the charter. In very general terms a comparison of some of the duties enumerated in the county charter and those required by the Real Property Tax Law, section 1532, reveals a substantial similarity with few exceptions. The county tax commission was formerly not required to provide advisory appraisals upon request of the cities and towns within the county (although this has been changed by Article 15-A). The second exception is that tax maps are not prepared and maintained at the county level in Westchester County. (This has not been altered by the Assessment Improvement Law.) Thus, it appears that the enactment of Article 15-A has not directly mandated new duties upon the Westchester County Tax Commission and its secretary other than those relating to advisory appraisals. However, Article 15-A calls for and has resulted in greater participation by county agencies, including the office of secretary to the Westchester County Tax Commission, in matters involving local assessment administration. Furthermore, as indicated above, the Assessment Improvement Law authorizes county legislative bodies, including Westchester County, to assign additional related duties to the office.

June 26, 1975

Updated: