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Effective Assessment Administration - A self review guide for Counties

Based on Standards Published by the
International Association of Assessing Officers (IAAO)

 

New York State Office of Real Property Tax Services
WA Harriman State Campus
Albany, New York 12227

June 2010

 

INSTRUCTIONS

This self-review guide is intended to assist county officials and other officials in evaluating how counties in New York State compare to standards developed by the International Association Of Assessing Officers (IAAO). The IAAO is an organization that promotes innovation and excellence in property appraisal, property tax policy and assessment administration through professional development, education, research and technical assistance.

The impetus for this guide came from the Real Property Tax Administration System Alliance, the 15-member advisory group that has been created to help forge a meaningful partnership among the state, local governments and school districts concerning real property tax issues.

The IAAO standards reflect a more definitive role for counties than that defined for counties in New York State. In some states, counties may have strong oversight responsibilities over local assessing jurisdictions. In other states, the county is the assessing unit and the state may have more enforcement responsibilities. In New York State, neither situation is the case. In New York, the role of the county in the administration of the real property tax is one of collaboration with and assistance to local assessing units. In some instances, the State has delegated to the county specific responsibilities that might be done at state level in other states, for example advisory appraisals of moderately complex properties. The questions in the guidelines are posed in a way to make the evaluation relevant to the statute, practices and procedures found in New York State.

This guide is intended solely for your use. There is no deadline for completing the guide. You are not being asked to send the completed guide back to ORPS. It is not a scorecard or rating system, and it is not for publication. Rather, the purpose of the guide is to make you aware of the IAAO standards, help you evaluate them in the context of what you are doing, and assist you in recognizing where you meet or exceed the standards, or where there might be opportunities for improvement. These guidelines may indicate where cooperative and collaborative efforts of the county with assessing units can lead to greater efficiency.

The guide can be a helpful tool, especially where the county is participating with ORPS in supporting a reassessment project in an assessing unit within the county. A review of the document can assist ORPS staff in developing the appropriate level of support for the project. Upon request, ORPS staff can help the county complete it and assist with an analysis of the results.

This guide is based on a series of standards published by the IAAO relative to assessment administration. The IAAO standards are organized by various subject areas. These standards provide criteria that an assessing unit can use to measure its effectiveness. The guidelines in this booklet are based on those standards. The specific IAAO standards that were used in developing the guidelines are listed in the table below. Each guideline is referenced to its corresponding standard by the abbreviation.

Abbreviation IAAO Publication
AA Standard on Assessment Appeal, approved December 1981
CRT Standard on Certification of Assessing Officers and Valuation Personnel, approved October, 1979
ED Standard on Education and Training of Assessing Officers, approved September, 1989
MAP Standard on Cadastral Maps and Parcel Identifiers, Approved January, 1988
MAS Standard on Mass Appraisal of Real Property, approved March, 1984
RAT Standard on Ratio Studies, approved July, 1990
PTP Standard on Property Tax Policy, approved August, 1997

Copies of the standards can be obtained from the IAAO, 135 South LaSalle Street, Department 1861, Chicago, Il. 60674.

This booklet is organized so that it can serve as a self-review guide. After this introduction, the rest of the self-review guide is organized into 3 columns. The first column contains the IAAO standard with a reference to its source. The second column contains one or more questions that relate to the guidelines. By responding to the questions, you can evaluate how a county compares to the IAAO standard. Finally, in the third column, there is space to jot short notes that indicate the necessary action steps that a county may need to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of assessment administration in New York State.

A similar set of guidelines has been published for assessing units. It is entitled GUIDELINES FOR EFFECTIVE ASSESSMENT ADMINISTRATION IN NEW YORK STATE - A SELF REVIEW GUIDE FOR ASSESSING UNITS. Copies of the guidelines may be obtained from any one of the regional offices of the Office of Real Property Tax Services.

 

Background Data

A. Evaluation conducted by: _______________________ Title: ___________________

B. Date of this evaluation: _______________________

 

Guideline Status (Circle Most Appropriate) Actions Needed to Move Closer to Guideline
Policy    
Local officials should develop policy proposals or legislative action plans by working with the professional associations.

Reference: PTP 2.1

1. The county director works with the professional associations in developing policies and legislative proposals.

a. Disagree
b. Tend to disagree
c. Don't know
d. Tend to agree
e. Agree

 
Each state and local jurisdiction should have ratio study performance standards. These should include standards for level of appraisal, appraisal uniformity (coefficient of dispersion), and vertical equity (price-related differential).

Reference: RAT 13

2. The county has established ratio study performance standards for:

Level of assessment
a. Disagree
b. Tend to disagree
c. Don't know
d. Tend to agree
e. Agree

Appraisal uniformity
a. Disagree
b. Tend to disagree
c. Don't know
d. Tend to agree
e. Agree

Vertical equity
a. Disagree
b. Tend to disagree
c. Don't know
d. Tend to agree
e. Agree

 
Local level property tax agencies often compile legal and technical information and provide research that can be shared with other assessing officials. These agencies often can help set up a clearinghouse.

Reference: PTP 2.1.1

3. County director serves as a clearinghouse for legal and technical information.

a. Disagree
b. Tend to disagree
c. Don't know
d. Tend to agree
e. Agree

 
Whenever resources permit, local administrative agencies should maintain tax research staff to provide objective information to the public and to the executive and legislative branches concerning the property tax system in place and the effects of any proposed system changes.

Reference: PTP 5.5

4. The county has the ability to provide objective information to the public and to the executive and legislative branches.

a. Disagree
b. Tend to disagree
c. Don't know
d. Tend to agree
e. Agree

 
Certification/Education    
Local jurisdictions, state authorities, and assessors' associations, which often initiate training programs, should make adequate funding of them a high priority in budgets. These groups should also provide for proper administration of the training program and can often assure high educational standards by sharing administrative responsibility with colleges or universities.

Reference: ED 4

5. Assessment administrator training programs are adequately funded.

a. Disagree
b. Tend to disagree
c. Don't know
d. Tend to agree
e. Agree

6. Training programs for assessment administrators are adequately administered.

a. Disagree
b. Tend to disagree
c. Don't know
d. Tend to agree
e. Agree

7. Administrative responsibilities are shared with colleges and universities.

a. Disagree
b. Tend to disagree
c. Don't know
d. Tend to agree
e. Agree

 
Valuation    
Where mass appraisal duties are not performed by personnel in the assessing office due to efficiency or practical concerns dictate otherwise, it is imperative that they be adequately provided by other departments, a state-level agency, a service bureau or another source.

Reference: MAS 5.2

8. The county adequately provides mass appraisal support to localities due to efficiency or practical concerns dictate otherwise.

a. Disagree
b. Tend to disagree
c. Don't know
d. Tend to agree
e. Agree

9. The county provides adequate guidance with rules, procedures, manuals and technical assistance.

a. Disagree
b. Tend to disagree
c. Don't know
d. Tend to agree
e. Agree

10. The county adequately provides values for moderately complex properties and utilities.

a. Disagree
b. Tend to disagree
c. Don't know
d. Tend to agree
e. Agree

 
Property tax valuation systems should be designed to maximize equity among property taxpayers and visibility or openness, while minimizing administrative complexity and confusion.

Reference: PTP 4

11. The county's valuation system is designed to maximize equity and minimize complexity and confusion.

a. Disagree
b. Tend to disagree
c. Don't know
d. Tend to agree
e. Agree

 
Equalization    
Local jurisdictions often include administrative agencies, such as county review boards and county commissioners, that oversee and review assessed values determined by assessing officers. Authority of such boards can be broad, including the ability to adjust individual or entire class assessments. Local boards of review and equalization provide valuable back-up far and a check and balance on the assessment process and should be encouraged to take an active role in these processes.

Reference: PTP 4.1.2.1

12. In New York State, the county's role is limited to training of board of assessment review officials. The Board of Assessment Review receives adequately training from the county.

a. Disagree
b. Tend to disagree
c. Don't know
d. Tend to agree
e. Agree

 
Cadastral Mapping (Tax Maps)    
The principle responsibility of the assessor is to locate, inventory, and appraise all property within the jurisdiction. A complete set of maps is necessary to perform this function.

Reference: MAP 2

13. The tax maps are accurate, complete and up-to-date.

a. Disagree
b. Tend to disagree
c. Don't know
d. Tend to agree
e. Agree

 
Each parcel should have assigned to it an unique identification number or code.

Reference: MAP 3.3

14. Each parcel has an unique identifier.

a. Disagree
b. Tend to disagree
c. Don't know
d. Tend to agree
e. Agree

 
An index map should show the location and boundaries of the individual cadastral map sheets in relation to the major features within the jurisdiction, e.g., roads, lakes, etc.

Reference: MAP 3.4

15. The index map shows the location and boundaries of the individual cadastral map sheets.

a. Disagree
b. Tend to disagree
c. Don't know
d. Tend to agree
e. Agree

 
The subdivision index should list all recorded subdivision plats and a map reference.

Reference: MAP 3.5

16. The subdivision index lists all recorded subdivision plats and a map reference.

a. Disagree
b. Tend to disagree
c. Don't know
d. Tend to agree
e. Agree

 
There should be adequate documentation of all records used in preparing the maps and in describing the locations of property corners and monuments shown on the maps.

Reference: MAP 3.6

17. There exists adequate documentation to support the information shown on the tax maps.

a. Disagree
b. Tend to disagree
c. Don't know
d. Tend to agree
e. Agree

 
Adequate work space for mapping activities should be provided. Adequate equipment should also be supplied for the production and storage of maps.

Reference: MAP 3.7

18. There is adequate work spacing for mapping activities.

a. Disagree
b. Tend to disagree
c. Don't know
d. Tend to agree
e. Agree

19. There is adequate production and storage space.

a. Disagree
b. Tend to disagree
c. Don't know
d. Tend to agree
e. Agree

 
An adequate mapping program requires adequate staff support. Staffing needs will depend on the type of mapping system and the size of the jurisdiction. All mapping personnel should receive training in procedures that are appropriate to the jurisdiction.

Reference: MAP 3.8

20. There is adequate mapping staff support.

a. Disagree
b. Tend to disagree
c. Don't know
d. Tend to agree
e. Agree

21. Mapping staff has received adequate training.

a. Disagree
b. Tend to disagree
c. Don't know
d. Tend to agree
e. Agree

 
Standard procedures for the production and maintenance of cadastral maps should be developed to ensure that all maps are complete and maintained in a uniform manner.

Reference: MAP 3.9

22. The county has developed procedures for the production and maintenance of maps.

a. Disagree
b. Tend to disagree
c. Don't know
d. Tend to agree
e. Agree

 
Jurisdictions developing a new mapping program or improving an existing program should consider a digital mapping system.

Reference: MAP 8

23. Digital mapping is being considered for a new or improved mapping program.

a. Disagree
b. Tend to disagree
c. Don't know
d. Tend to agree
e. Agree

 
Jurisdictions contemplating the development of new mapping systems should investigate the possibility of entering into a consortium with other governments, utilities, and the private sector. Such cooperative approach would provide local officials with financial, technological, and managerial assistance.

Reference: MAP 8

24. The county is exploring the possibility of cooperative approaches to any new or improved mapping program.

a. Disagree
b. Tend to disagree
c. Don't know
d. Tend to agree
e. Agree

 
Reference Materials    
The following kinds of reference materials should be kept current and readily available:

Standards of Practice - laws, regulations, policy memoranda, procedural manuals, appraisal manuals and schedules, standard treatises on property appraisal and taxation; and

Professional library - every assessment office should have a comprehensive professional library that contains the information employees need to perform their duties and to keep abreast of developments. The library should contain the material outlined in the standards of practice, periodicals relating to appraisal and assessment administration, equipment manuals and software documentation.

Reference:FAC 6.1, FAC 6.2

25.The director has access to the Real Property Tax Law and other laws.

a. yes            b. no           c. don't know

26.The director has access to the Opinions of Counsel published by ORPS.

a. yes            b. no           c. don't know

27. The director has access to the State Board's rules.

a. yes            b. no           c. don't know

28. The State Board's rules are updated with all revisions.

a. yes            b. no           c. don't know

29. The director has access to the Assessor's Manual.

a. yes            b. no           c. don't know

30. The Assessor's Manual is updated with all revisions.

a. yes            b. no           c. don't know

31. The director has access to a professional library:

a. at the municipal office
b. at the county office
c. at another site
d. does not have access

32. The director's office has a procedural manuals.

a. yes            b. no           c. don't know

33. The director has access to software

a. yes            b. no           c. don't know

 
Other Roles and Responsibilities    
State agencies can promote efficiency by providing data processing to local jurisdictions at low rates, possibly set to recover marginal costs.

State agencies can help to standardize processing and valuation procedures among jurisdictions.

State can sometimes help local jurisdictions obtain computer resources at reduced costs by coordinating contracts with vendors.

Reference: MAS 5.3.3

34. The county promotes efficiency by providing data processing services at low costs.

a. Disagree
b. Tend to disagree
c. Don't know
d. Tend to agree
e. Agree

35. The county provides standardized processing and valuation procedures.

a. Disagree
b. Tend to disagree
c. Don't know
d. Tend to agree
e. Agree

36. The county acts as the primary liaison between assessing units, taxing units and ORPS regarding access to real property information, data files and documentation.

a. Disagree
b. Tend to disagree
c. Don't know
d. Tend to agree
e. Agree

37. The county assists localities in obtaining computer resources at reduced costs.

a. Disagree
b. Tend to disagree
c. Don't know
d. Tend to agree
e. Agree

 
Public Relations    
State and local assessing officials should consider public relations to be an inherent role of considerable importance.

Reference: PTP 6

38. The county considers public relations important.

a. Disagree
b. Tend to disagree
c. Don't know
d. Tend to agree
e. Agree

 
In preparing printed materials and correspondence for the public, special attention should be paid to form, content, length, and language. These include:

correspondence, assessment notices, special purpose messages, forms and questionnaires, and annual reports.

Reference: PR 6

39. Material and correspondence are reviewed on a regular basis for form, content and language.

a. Disagree
b. Tend to disagree
c. Don't know
d. Tend to agree
e. Agree

 
For certain recurring events, every assessing office should maintain a file of forms, questionnaires, and letters. Typical forms and questionnaires include: appeal forms, exemption applications, income and expense questionnaires and sales questionnaires. An assessment office should always have standard forms available on demand. These include: data collection forms, assessment roll forms, property appraisal forms, assessment notices, exemption applications, appeal, tax relief and abatement applications, other preferential assessment applications,

sales, cost, income and expense, and property characteristics questionnaires.

Reference: PR 6.4, FAC 8

40. Are the following available?

Senior citizens exemption applications

a. yes            b. no

Veterans exemption applications

a. yes            b. no

Section 420a/420b nonprofit exemption applications

a. yes            b. no

STAR exemption applications

a. yes            b. no

How to file a grievance booklets

a. yes            b. no

Income and expense questionnaires

a. yes            b. no

Sales questionnaires

a. yes            b. no
 
The assessor should prepare an annual report to the municipality summarizing the activities and accomplishments of the assessing office.

Reference: PR 6.5

41. Did the county director file an annual report with the county legislature?
a. yes            b. no
 
The public relations program should be designed to give special attention to current social, economic, and political conditions. The program should be directly reflect these conditions and tailored to meet the needs of the jurisdiction.

Reference: PR 3

42. A public relations program has been developed that meets the needs of the county.

a. Disagree
b. Tend to disagree
c. Don't know
d. Tend to agree
e. Agree

 
The assessing office should have a written plan for handling public relations crises. Roles should be defined.

Reference: PR 3.3.1

43. The county has a plan for handling crisis situations.

a. Disagree
b. Tend to disagree
c. Don't know
d. Tend to agree
e. Agree

 
Any communication with the public, whether written or verbal, should be in plain language and should avoid professional jargon.

Reference: PR 3.4.3

44. Communications are generally simple and understandable.

a. Disagree
b. Tend to disagree
c. Don't know
d. Tend to agree
e. Agree

 
Every assessing office should develop a procedures manual that includes a section detailing how staff should communicate with the public and it should serve as a training guide for employees.

Reference: PR 4

45. The county's procedures manual contains a section on dealing with the public.

a. Disagree
b. Tend to disagree
c. Don't know
d. Tend to agree
e. Agree

 
All records should be made available for public review unless access is specifically limited by law or unless confidential information is involved. The assessor should establish guidelines for the dissemination of real estate records.

Reference: PR 5

46. All public records are available for review.

a. Disagree
b. Tend to disagree
c. Don't know
d. Tend to agree
e. Agree

 
The public needs to know why assessments are made and what is financed by property taxes. The taxpayer should be made aware of the assessment process, the budgeting process, and the tax rate process.

Reference: PR 11

47. The county has an on-going public education program.

a. Disagree
b. Tend to disagree
c. Don't know
d. Tend to agree
e. Agree

 
Agencies that investigate taxpayer complaints should develop specific criteria to define extent of the investigation and should develop procedures to narrow and focus such complaints.

Reference: PTP 4.3.5

48. The county has criteria and adequate procedures for investigation of taxpayer complaints.

a. Disagree
b. Tend to disagree
c. Don't know
d. Tend to agree
e. Agree

 
State administrative agencies and local assessors should promote awareness of circuit breaker programs and should provide outreach and assistance to those wishing to apply for the benefits.

Reference: PTP 5.3.5

49. The county adequately promotes property tax relief programs such as the STAR program, the senior citizens' exemption, other exemption programs and the circuit breaker for low income property owners.

a. Disagree
b. Tend to disagree
c. Don't know
d. Tend to agree
e. Agree

50. The county provides outreach and assistance to those applying for benefits.

a. Disagree
b. Tend to disagree
c. Don't know
d. Tend to agree
e. Agree

 

 

 

 

 

 

Updated: