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Volume 9 - Opinions of Counsel SBEA No. 93

Opinions of Counsel index

Assessor (sole elected assessor) - Real Property Tax Law, §§ 102(3), 1556 [repealed]; Town Law, § 21-a [repealed]:

The office of sole elected assessor may exist in towns which exercised local options pursuant to now repealed sections of the Town Law (§21-a) and the Real Property Tax Law (§1556).

In general, towns have either a sole appointed assessor or a three-member elected board of assessors, the latter where the town exercised its option in 1970 or 1971 to retain such board. We have received an inquiry concerning the offices of sole elected assessor in the Towns of Great Valley, Cattaraugus County, and Jerusalem, Yates County. The question is whether such an office is legally permissible and, if so, whether other municipalities may adopt this mode of selecting an assessor.

The office of sole elected assessor is no longer an option which towns may adopt. However, as a result of actions taken in 1971 by both the Town of Great Valley and the Town of Jerusalem, both of these assessing units are permitted to retain the office of sole elected assessor.

Former section 21-a of the Town Law {1} authorized towns of the second class (i.e., most towns with populations under 10,000; see, 9 Op.Counsel SBEA No. 88) to change the appointive office of assessor to an elective office. {2}  Prior to 1970, the Town of Great Valley and the Town of Jerusalem each exercised this option. When Article 15-A of the Real Property Tax Law (RPTL) was enacted in 1970 (c.957), each of these towns had a sole elected assessor.

In general, section 6 of chapter 957 of the Laws of 1970 terminated the terms of office of incumbent assessors (elected and appointed) as of September 30, 1971. Appointed assessors began six-year terms of office the following day. However, former section 1556 of the RPTL {3} authorized any city or town, in which, on August 1, 1970, “one or more of the offices of assessor is elective,” to adopt a local law no later than April 30, 1971, providing for the continuation of the “office or offices of assessor” as elective. Local Law No. 1 of 1971 of the Town of Great Valley provides that the office of assessor in that Town should continue to be elective. Local Law No. 1 of 1971 of the Town of Jerusalem similarly provides for the continuation of the elective office of assessor in that Town. Given the adoption of these local laws, each of these towns has continued to elect sole assessors. This practice is legal and may continue until and unless either town chooses to abolish the elective office of assessor and replace it with a sole appointed assessor, as provided in RPTL, section 328.

September 28, 1992

NOTE: Chapter 293 of the Laws of 1993 added a new section 329 to the RPTL authorizing those assessing units, which retained their elected (three member) boards of assessors pursuant to former section 1556 of the RPTL, to adopt a local law to establish the position of sole elected assessor.


{1}  Repealed L.1974, c.69.

{2}  In addition to section 21-a, the Town Law also included section 22, which provided for the appointment of three assessors in towns of the second class, and section 22-a, which provided for the appointment of three assessors in towns of the first class located in Erie County. These provisions and section 21, which provided for the optional appointment of a single assessor, were all made obsolete by the enactment of chapter 957 of the Laws of 1970 and were thereafter repealed by chapter 69 of the Laws of 1974.

{3}  This section was included within Article 15-A until it was repealed (L.1984, c.472).

Updated: