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Department of Taxation and Finance

Real Property Tax Administration Committee

MINUTES
Thursday and Friday, March 14th & 15th, 2002 (1 - 5 pm & 8:30 - 1 pm)
Hampton Inn, Route 7, Latham, New York 12210

Facilitator: Dan Curtin
Recorders: Tammy Stallings and Angela DiMura
Assessors: Cathy Conklin, Tom Frey, Peter Galerneau, Nick Longo, Sue Otis, Fred Pask
County Directors: Doug Barton, Tom Bloodgood, William Cinquanti, Jim Gonyo, Dorothy Martin, Ron Shelter
ORPS: Tom Bellard, Frank Ferrari, Tom Griffin, Ruth Henahan, Vince O'Connor, Richard Sinnott
Others: Joe Gerberg, Geoff Gloak, Kathy Gustafson, John Harkin, Paul Miller, Jim O'Keefe, Richard Sauer, Bruce Sauter, JoAnn Whalen, Dave Williams, Robert Zandri

    1.  
      1. How should ORPS manage the $300,000 limit?
      2. What changes can be made?
      3. How can we live within the $300,000 limit?
      1. Does ORPS has resources to follow through?
      2. The focus seems to be on county directors instead of individual assessor's offices.
      3. ORPS's role to local capacity service has changed.
      • Approved a draft charter for the RPS Change Control Board (CCB).
      • Recommended the new State CIO James Dillon be invited to meet with the Governance Group.
      • V5 Subcommittee reported that future development would be web based, and costly.
      • Approved development fund expenditures to test deployment alternatives for V4.
      • Reviewed RPS expenditures, which point to a 22% increase in license fees in '03-'04.
      • Accepted need to plan for phase out V3 mainframe systems; will assist in setting time limits to allow for migration planning and budgeting.

Day 1

  • Get Organized

Dan distributed a revised list of members and teams. Dan discussed the agenda and upcoming issues. Dan distributed the 2002 Report on Effectiveness of State Technical & Financial Assistance Programs for Assessment Administration approved by State Board. Minutes were approved with noted changes. Ron Shetler's title was corrected. A question was asked whether an action item should be assigned to a person who is not a group member. Group agreed that it should not be.

Status on action items - we are moving forward.

  • Leader's Report

Assessors - Sue Otis sat in for Rick Hubner. Nothing to report.

County Directors - Jim Gonyo is replacing Jeffry Jackson for today's meeting. We need to add Jeffry Jackson back to the membership list. The position of county directors on training is that the success of assessment efforts in the future lies with the people who provide the service and the quality of training that these professionals have access to. Also, this business has become more complex, more technical and is headed in the direction of "real time" assessing. The people at the town and county level need the tools to move from a job to a profession. The past few years support this concept. More assessors are becoming full-time by taking on several towns. Fewer towns are able to get the required job done with elected officials with limited backgrounds and interest. Many county directors raised the bar in their offices and are taking a more proactive approach toward assessment equity. ORPS personnel is offering a higher grade of training at conferences than it did years ago. The administrative, valuation, analytical and support training will be key to successful assessment practices.

ORPS - Tom Griffin had nothing to report.

  • State Budget

Tom Griffin talked about the State Budget. The ORPS budget bill contains more detail. The Governor has proposed legislation regarding a retirement incentive for State employees. There is no specific aid amount for STAR program yet. RPTAC discussed that the funds are controlled by DOB.

  • Training Issues

Dan introduced the topic. In preparing for this meeting there were concerns expressed that training is always discussed with other issues and not given enough time. It should not be tied to any other agenda item. Also there are concerns about the support of ORPS reimbursement. Dan asked each organization to give their thoughts.

Assessors

The program is an assessor's only chance for reinforcement. There is a desire to establish a plan, goals and timeline to address training issues. Assessors are interested in commitment from ORPS. This is a serious issue and it needs to be addressed. Where is ORPS commitment? Training is crucial. Not enough time or attention is spent on these issues. Reassessment is not necessarily going to happen in some areas of the State. That doesn't mean we don't want to build our skills. We need to do our jobs even if it is not the ideal way.

County Directors

The basic administrative courses (admin., exemption, etc.) should continue to be offered by ORPS staff with assistance by qualified assessors and directors. The valuation and appraisal courses could be delivered by an accredited association such as IAAO. Continuing Ed courses can be offered by a multitude of people and groups with approval and oversight by ORPS Educational Services. There are concerns that people need the tools to move to a job or profession. Is it cheaper to send county director than employee? Suggestion of community college is premature. The objective of the program is not being considered. This should be taken care of before we talk to the colleges. The training program and the performance of an assessing unit are not necessarily correlated. What is ORPS position where training is concerned? ORPS is now at a loss and has to make a decision in the next two weeks. Feeling that now it is a critical issue and the group will not be able to have their input used.

ORPS

ORPS is offering a higher level of training than in prior years with reimbursement program for training. ORPS needs to discuss the numbers and get a solution. ORPS needs a resolution about the money for next fiscal year. ORPS is close to going over the appropriated amount now. Frank passed out a summary of the number of students and the associated expenditures for last 4 to 5 years for various components. Some points made were: the number of assessor reimbursed does not accurately represent participants because people don't always submit vouchers. If we get an increase in vouchers the numbers would change significantly. 1/3 of the participants don't request reimbursement for travel. There is a limit to reimbursement. ORPS can't pay more than $300,000.

A question was raised about a municipality having four people going over a two-year period. Three people one year and someone new the next year. The same people do not repeat in one or two fiscal years.

Bob Zandri distributed a document pertaining to training requirements. ORPS is starting off with the existing requirements for training. Curriculum development and operations were of concern from local officials and other sources. January and February evaluation results were highly successful with short-term issues being dealt with, long-term issues remaining.

Tom Griffin has talked to SUNY and Hudson Valley Community College. Rockefeller College was not reached. We met with Hudson Valley representatives in January and they are interested is assessor training. They have experience in the private sector providing adult education in areas such as technology and administration. Vocational programs, certificate programs, intermediate and degree programs are options. ORPS was well received. ORPS spoke with the chairman of the Business Administration Department regarding credit and non-credit courses, their requirements, the designated faculty and associated costs. In pursuing credit or non-credit basis. There needs to be a basic curriculum. SUNY Central has potential for economic grants supporting this.

Columbia Greene Community College - Peter Ostrander is negotiating with the college to at least begin offering a minor in the Business Administration program. Development of semester courses considering night and less than full time students are being discussed. ORPS will meet with Peter to learn more about this initiative opportunities in other community colleges are being considered.

Reassessment is not the defining issue, how to limit the $300,000 expenditures is. ORPS is now at a loss. ORPS must make a decision in the next two weeks which means ORPS may not be able to stick with earlier proposals.

Some additional concerns and questions raised about ORPS's summary of expenditures by component are: concerns about summer school and why the % for Cornell is higher. Is summer school included in the reimbursement? What about the other money not included in this list of these people going to courses? How much money is received? It expressed that money should come out of other funds. Is summer programs staff paid out of this too? Can the associate program be utilized by someone who wants to become an assessor? Is it the agency's position that the training will be moved out of the agency? If continuing education is not reflective of equity, can someone still make use of these skills and maintain an equitable role?

Dan asked the members to think about and discuss the following during the break:

After a few clarifying questions the group brainstormed ideas for how to manage the appropriated amount in the short term and in the long term.

Group asked what legislative constraints are we under for 02-03?

ORPS assured that whatever the legislature appropriates is what is paid out. However, ORPS cannot pay more than the appropriated amount - $300,000.

Another question was where is the control about the things being done. Can't you say a session isn't credit worthy? ORPS doesn't have that much control. Does the law say set a dollar limit for each person?

No. It is hard to get on their agenda. AOT is asking us to have something in New York City each year. We are under pressure.

Dan captured the ideas on flipcharts. Those notes can be found in Appendix I

After this discussion Dan asked where Tom Griffin is headed with respect to items on flip charts. His response was rule changes are out. Training caps will be considered. ORPS is going to consider the items for fiscal year 02-03 for non-rule changes. Fiscal year 03-04 rule changes will be considered. Proposals dealing with fiscal year 02-03 will be dealt with. We need to consider changes that do not require rule changes first.

The County Directors felt that the discussion, while good, had not addressed all of the issues they had raised. Dan suggested continuing the training discussion tomorrow.

Day 2

  • Training Issues Continued

Assessors/County Directors: Training is being ignored by ORPS. The right questions are not being asked. LCT has said that they don't want any link to performance. Peter added that convincing towns to update is frustrating, if he can do it. Training is important, nonetheless to him. A lot of people have a lot to say about what goes on the roll. Assessor is the last one to say something. There is a feeling that we need to keep getting the knowledge to fight for the people (taxpayer) because no one else will. If we don't know what is going on, how can we explain it to the taxpayers. The town will not allow us to do our job a certain way. For instance, corrections; we can't make them if the town doesn't agree. Does ORPS want to be a help to the assessors in providing this training or not? There is a feeling that ORPS doesn't really want to do education training. Also, it is important to have ORPS teach the curriculum as opposed to having someone else take that responsibility over from ORPS. Assessors are mandated to have the training to keep our jobs.

ORPS: Training is not being ignored. After many discussions we haven't accomplished much. We are asking the question why are we doing the training and what is the objective of the training program. ORPS wants to do it but we have to consider the money we have to do it with. Local government doesn't participate because they haven't felt the responsibility to do so. The assessment business is getting more difficult and more technical. ORPS feels that the course taken must apply to what the job directly entails.

RPTAC agreed that a smaller group, a subset of RPTAC, should develop a plan to continue this discussion and make recommendations.

Action Item: Organize ad hoc group to develop details of basic and continuing education training plan. (Tom Bloodgood).

The presidents of the organizations picked two people to represent them. The team will consist of Tom Griffin and Frank Ferrari, Sue Otis and Cathy Conklin, Tom Bloodgood and Doug Barton.

  • 2002 Legislative Agendas

Joe Gerberg and Jim O'Keeffe provided a brief summary of the pending budget bills on STAR and Railroads (see Parts G & H respectively in S.6258-a/A.9760-a), and the pending ORPS Departmental bills involving equalization (S.6279/A.10736) and oil and gas (A.10679) program areas. Paul Miller briefly reviewed the ORPS Departmental bills that were carried over from last year (involving electric generating facility PILOT agreements (A.8413), allowance of tentative equalization rate use in certain cases (S.4248/A.8409), and RAR revisions (S.367/A.8412-a), and highlighted some of the other noteworthy RPT related bills that have been moving in the Legislature to date.

Sue Otis will contact Bob Zandri to talk about the STAR program. Paul mentioned that the State legislature is interested in exemptions for World Trade Center, etc. Bills are on the calendar to pass both houses and results will go on the website. #1060, large parcel bill, #6419, Sue Otis presented the NYSAA's legislative program and #10153, STAR bill (Notice to Assessor's) currently in the Assembly. No bill number yet for eliminating Saturdays. Paul will be in contact with legislative committees on this. Doug listed the County Director's push for the current year.

Action Item: Call meeting to discuss star legislative problems. (Sue Otis)

  • Team Status

Equalization Team

Tom Maher reported that the team has met once this year. At the team meeting they received a report from Jeff Green on the status of the pre-decisional collaboration pilot project in Saratoga County. At their next meeting the team will discuss with ORPS Regional Directors how they can expand the pilot project to other municipalities. The team had discussions about the procedures for 2003 equalization rates and believes that they need to be based on current values and established in time for use in 2003 school tax apportionment. The team's initial thoughts are that the 2003 procedures should be similar to the 2002 procedures. ORPS will conduct sales ratio studies and CAMA studies for the residential class and have minimal use of trending. ORPS needs to explore alternative methods for valuing commercial and vacant property.

Tom Bloodgood reported that the team looked at the issue of the use of different equalization rates for exemption and apportionment purposes. The team examined data from the 2001 roll year and found that in most municipalities the rates are the same or are very similar. The team decided that at this time it is not a problem.

RPS Governance Team

Property Class Team

The last member was identified and a meeting is scheduled for the last week in April.

Valuation Issues Team

After December's RPTAC meeting, the team reviewed the recommended policy on court ordered settlements. The team accepted recommendation of ORPS Counsel to implement the value decision made by the judge in court ordered decisions made upon completion of appraisal exchange, testimony at trial, and settlements only upon completion of trial without notice of appeal. Although this affects large parcels, assessors have developed their own proposal to deal with the adverse effects of value differences on large parcels between ORPS and the local assessor.

The underlying problem is where the local level (assessor and taxpayer may agree upon a value) and the state (ORPS) has a significantly different opinion of value. We may agree upon the methodology, but we may not be able to agree with the value. There are many things in a sales transaction that the interpretation of the "real property" component may be difficult to ascertain. Limitations on relevant depreciated cost data or economic income and expense data may be almost unattainable. We are trying to collaborate through a three-step process. First, agree with methodology, then agree with relevant data or facts and finally attempt to reach agreement on the value. Although we may not agree on the value conclusion, we can identify and minimize the areas of disagreement if we can agree on the methodology and facts. It is a very complex issue with many components involved.

The team discussed property classification codes. This issue was referred to the newly created Property Classification Code Team.

  • CRM Rollout - Feedback

Sessions held in December through January. Local officials attended with ORPS staff in the morning sessions. The consulting aspect was broken from the customer relationship aspect of it. Customer Relationship Manager (CRM) gave an overview of their pilot project status. Sessions were well attended except in the Central Region. Local reactions depended on session. Some concerns were:

We need to evaluate pilot work we are doing this summer. We are talking to the staff about the role of the customer relationship manager (CRM). Status report of the CRM's pilot projects was shared with the group.

  • Current Issues

A concern was raised about the 5217 information on the data warehouse usage. An unauthorized person has had access to the data warehouse. Are there people using the data warehouse that shouldn't be? Ruth added that in accordance with the policy the information is restricted and classified. It is a violation of State law to use it, if you are not supposed to. Bruce added that perhaps a backtracking from the security officer could resolve these types of leaks. What about the number of hits? How many are ORPS employees? Is that information available? JoAnn added that we are trying to get that information out but we must do it within the security constraints.

Action Item: Bruce will share data warehouse access data with RPTAC within the next two weeks.

  • Potential Agenda Items are:

Training
Legislation
Team Reports

Next Meeting
June 13-14, 2002
Hampton Inn, Route 9, Latham

Flipchart notes from Training Session at RPTAC March 14-15, 2002
Facilitator: Dan Curtin
Recorder: Angela DiMura 

    1. The group was asked to come up with ways ORPS should spend the $300,000.
      1. reduce requirements Rules Change
      2. exercise discretion around "necessary expenses"
      3. limit only to credit worthy courses i.e. not AOT, info only seminars
      4. don't count instructors stipend as part of $300,000
      5. don't make Basic last resort - concentrate on CE to reduce requirements i.e., 12 hours Rules Change
      6. will not pay for courses given out-of-state (ties to #14)
      7. maximum $ per individual Rules change
      8. do not reimburse where public transportation is available
      9. have CE only annual not 3 years Rule Change
      10. don't reimburse or hold until the end of the year where individuals have sufficient "banked credits"
      • stay w/in existing law
      • pay travel & other expenses such as tuition "actual & necessary expenses"
      • $300,000 CAP (Legislature)
      • Basic certification program as prescribed
      • CE (continuing education) as prescribed
      • No rollover to 2003-04

        Concerns:

      • Should reimbursement $$ be used to fund assessors/directors who serve as trainers? 

Suggestions offered to ORPS on how to manage $300,000 for fiscal year 2002-03 (brainstorming)

Parameters: 

Ideas: 

Problem: How do you decide who at end? May need new rule to pro rate payments

  1. All vouchers submitted within fiscal year course taken
  2. Pre-approval for entire year of courses - wakes sleeping giant; town needs to know in order to budget
  3. make credit year & fiscal year the same Rules change
  4. limit mileage to limited geographic area w/o prior approval (Reimburse for equivalent cost for taking locally)
  5. limit expenses where courses are available online (ties to #14)
  6. don't do AOT if $ is not there - may not be easy, no one else does
  7. pay all basic; hold ce until end of year pro rate
  8. spend it until it is gone (ties to #16) 

ORPS will propose:

  1. 2002-03 Non rule changes
  2. 2003 -04 Rule Changes 
  • The group was asked to identify elements in 
  1. Plan to address service & quality of training
    • Specific goals
    • Timeline 
  2. Do we want to tie training to performance?
    • Performance may be outside of assessor's control
    • Basic must be provided
    • What do we want from CE?

    Whose responsibility is it?

    • State
    • Local Government

    Parameters:

    • with limited funds basic has precedent over CE


    Basic:

    • give to assessors/directors

    What?

    • ORPS prescribes curriculum relative to NYS assessment administration (may include equalization, tax enforcement, tax maps, data collection)
    • Exemption
    • Valuation

    Who?

    • Assessment administration, exemption courses
    • ORPS
    • Vendor w/minimum quals
    • Assessors/directors 

    Valuation courses   

  3. Contractor/vendor  
  4. ORPS Reimburses whole or majority part, shared cost w/town; examine revolving door for elected


    Continuing Education

    Required for: 

    • Assessors/directors
    • Appointed
    • Sole elected
    • Electeds 

    What?

    • vary # of years by length of service
    • may delegate to staff up to x percentage
    • Assessment & valuation development
    • Real world, just in time
    • New developments from year to year (legislative)
    • Current & relevant to what you are doing

    Who:

    • Primarily organizations other than ORPS
    • ORPS approves course and instructor (prior approval)

    Reimbursement:

    • Required individuals
    • Option to send delegate (staff) in place of assessor
    • Examine caps & Tompkins county options
    • Examine local share components; local govt pays x%; may increase ORPS cost; wakes sleeping giants
    • Limit to training & education
    • Why do training or ce?

    Who are we training?

    • Assessors/directors
    • Municipal officials
    • Public
    • Media
    • Does the assessor/director need all the training him/herself? Train more people w/same amount of money
Updated: