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Volume 8 - Opinions of Counsel SBEA No. 27

Opinions of Counsel index

Public records (NYSRPIS documents) - Public Officers Law, § 87; RPTL, § 574:

Subject to exceptions included in the Freedom of Information Law, the various reports and documents prepared by or used in conjunction with the New York State Real Property Information System constitute public records and are available for inspection and copying.

We have been asked whether various reports and documents which are prepared by or used in conjunction with the New York State Real Property Information System are subject to public inspection and copying. Subject to several narrow exceptions, all records of State and municipal agencies (e.g., assessors’ offices) are public records and must be made available for inspection and copying as provided in the Freedom of Information Law (Public Officers Law, §87(2)). Accordingly, unless it fits within one of the exceptions in the law, each of the documents or reports referred to below constitutes a public record.

The real property file content sheet (FCS) from the Assessment Roll Levy Module (ARLM) contains a written description of the assessment information in the assessor’s data file. In general, the information on this report is public information. However, if a particular file content sheet contains sales information derived from the State Board’s real property transfer report form (EA-5217), that portion of the file content sheet may well be considered specifically exempt by State law from public inspection and copying except for purposes of administrative or judicial review (RPTL, §574(5); Public Officers Law, §87(2)(a)).

The real property inventory content sheet (ICS) from the Data Management Module (DMT) contains a written description of the inventory information in the assessor’s data file. In general, both this information and that recorded on the property record card are public information. The data management file maintenance report is a document used by the assessor for correcting data. As such, we would anticipate little public interest in this document. Moreover, we believe that access to this report may be withheld as it would constitute intra-agency material which is not statistical or factual tabulations or data, instructions to staff that affect the public, or final agency policy or determinations (Public Officers Law, §87(2)(g)).

The field review computer printout listing the subject parcel and comparable parcels contains information which may be used by the assessor in valuing the subject parcel. If it is so used, in our opinion, it would constitute a public record. However, as previously noted in the context of the FCS, if this report contains sales information derived from an EA-5217, that portion of the document may not be made available except for purposes of administrative or judicial review.

Our opinion is the same as to the mass appraisal module’s residential/farm/vacant cost sheet. That is, where this document is used by the assessor in valuing real property, it should be made available as a public record.

November 17, 1983

Updated: