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Volume 8 - Opinions of Counsel SBEA No. 31

Opinions of Counsel index

Board of assessment review (membership and qualifications) (village boards) - Real Property Tax Law, §§ 523, 1408; Village Law, § 3-301(2)(b):

If a village board of trustees constitutes itself or some of its members as the board of assessors, any trustee-assessor must also sit as a member of the village board of assessment review. If, however, board of trustees opts to appoint an independent board of assessment review, no trustee may sit as a member of that board.

Our opinion has been requested as to whether a village assessor, who is a member of the village board of trustees, may be excluded from the village board of assessment review.

Section 3-301(2)(b) of the Village Law provides that every village may have an assessor or a board of assessors. It also provides that the trustees may by local law or resolution combine all or any two of the offices of clerk, treasurer, and assessor. That paragraph also provides the board of trustees may determine by local law or by resolution that the board of trustees shall act as the board of assessors or that the board of trustees may appoint a board of assessors from among their members. The village board of trustees in question has designated some or all of its members to be the assessors.

Pursuant to section 1408(1) of the Real Property Tax Law, the board of trustees and assessors, or a committee of the board of trustees (constituting a majority thereof) and the assessors shall constitute the board of assessment review. Accordingly, a trustee, who is a member of the village board of assessors, is also a member of the board of assessment review.

Effective January 1, 1983, villages have another option with respect to their boards of assessment review. Section 1408(1) was amended (L.1982, c.579) to authorize a village to appoint an independent board of assessment review as is required for cities and towns. Section 523(1) of the Real Property Tax Law provides that members of a board of assessment review are to be appointed by the legislative body of the local government. The criterion for membership is a knowledge of property values in the local government. Neither the assessor nor any member of his staff may be appointed to the independent board of assessment review, and a majority of the three to five member board may not be officers or employees of the village.

In construing the provisions of what is now section 523(1) of the RPTL, we and the Attorney General have separately concluded that a member of the town board may not be appointed to the board of assessment review (1 Op.Counsel SBEA No. 85; 5 id. No. 88; Op.Atty.Gen. 1982-52) because of the common law rule that an appointing body may not appoint one of its own members to a public office (Wood v. Town of Whitehall, 120 Misc. 124, 197 N.Y.S. 789 (Sup.Ct., Washington Co., 1923), aff’d, 206 App.Div. 786, 201 N.Y.S. 959 (3d Dept., 1923)). If a village board of trustees elects to appoint an independent board of assessment review, it necessarily follows that it will be subject to this same prohibition that applies to town and city boards.

Accordingly, it is our opinion that if a village board of trustees constitutes itself or some of its members as the board of assessors, any trustee-assessor must also serve as a member of the village board of assessment review. If, however, the board of trustees opts to appoint an independent board of assessment review, no trustee may sit as a member of that board.

May 24, 1983

Updated: