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Department of Taxation and Finance

Real Property Tax Administration Committee

Thursday and Friday, June 5th & 6th, 2002 (1 - 5 pm & 8:30 - 1 pm)
Hampton Inn, Route 7, Latham, New York 12210


Facilitator: Dan Curtin
Recorders: Tammy Stallings
Assessors: Tom Frey, Peter Galerneau, Richard Hubner, Nick Longo, Sue Otis and Fred Pask
County Directors: Doug Barton, Tom Bloodgood, William Cinquanti, Jim Gonyo, Dorothy Martin and Ron Shelter
ORPS: Tom Bellard, Frank Ferrari, Tom Griffin, Richard Harris, Ruth Henahan, Vince O'Connor and Richard Sinnott
Others: Patrick Duffy, Joe Gerberg, Jeffry Gloak, Bill Godell, Jeff Green, John Harkin, Jim Haskell, Dennis Jersey, Jeff Jordan, Larry Quinn, Tim Maher, Paul Miller, Jim O'Keefe, Bruce Sauter, JoAnn Whalen and Dave Williams

  • Get Organized

Dan discussed the revised agenda and upcoming issues. Minutes were approved with no changes. The agenda was revised to add the Customer Relationship topic today.

Minutes were approved.

  • Leader's Report

Assessors - Sue Otis reported that Board member Larry Quinn was attending today. She requested forming a committee to look at assessment and tax calendars and make adjustments, where necessary. Rick reported on the governance meeting, RPS V3 and V4 inventory issues and related concerns and options. Also, the RPS quarterly sales inventory option was discussed. Dan added the sales reporting to the RPS topic tomorrow.

Action Items: Dan will add to tomorrow's agenda items

Dick Harris will work with Sue Otis and Jim Gonyo to plan and deliver a symposium to evaluate the annual reassessment program.

County Directors - Doug Barton reported that minutes were behind more than one meeting on the Internet site. Dan asked Tammy to post the December 2001 and March 2002 minutes as soon as possible. Jim Gonyo is now a permanent RPTAC member and Jeffry Jackson is no longer a member. Tom Bloodgood announced that this is his last meeting with RPTAC.

ORPS - Tom Griffin had nothing to report 

    1. Training Update 

Frank passed out a document to share with the group for discussion. Two meetings have taken place so far and we set a goal of having a plan for future training by the end of the summer. ORPS met with Hudson Valley College and attended a meeting of a continuing education association (CEANY) for four-year colleges and two-year colleges to discuss developing an alternative curriculum. We had an association meeting in Rensselaerville, which included 25-30 people from different colleges throughout the state. Good interest was expressed and assessor training considered a potential revenue source for colleges. A meeting date is scheduled for July between the CEANY and the RPTAC ad hoc training team. Columbia Greene College is developing an assessment administration course, which will be given in August.

Frank distributed a sheet listing potential fundamental and comprehensive courses that the team was suggesting.

Sue Otis asked about TCPC and LCT.

Will there ever be a committee to oversee the program (LCT)? Sue reported that she felt that the TCPC team wasn't accomplishing anything and perhaps the charter should be revised.

County Directors - Doug Barton reported that the time frames are not set in stone and may change. There is some concern with how the requirements are met. We are looking at that - nothing determined yet though. He expressed agreement that the training issue is being considered. Is it true that LCT is no longer needed?

RPTAC discussed the role of LCT. Perhaps a smaller group is needed to deal with the short-term issues or a large group to deal with the oversight of the training program. After the discussion, RPTAC members agreed that LCT would not be replaced.

RPTAC members agreed that TCPC should be on hold and the charter revised to reflect a new guidance team with a different name. The Ad Hoc should charter the replacement TCPC. The group would come up with a time line by the next meeting?

In summary, Dan stated that the plan for September is to have a plan for training in place.

Kathy reported that all vouchers have been processed for the last fiscal year. No unpaid vouchers remain and $300,000 was spent. There are no significant complaints or concerns. Any comments or improvements can be put on the web. Summer enrollments are coming up. She needs the outlines for Cornell. She is working with upcoming conferences internally and will get back to RPTAC with results at the next meeting.

Kathy Gustafson is retiring. Members thanked her for her participation and assistance and told her that she would be missed. 

    1. Equalization Issues 

Tim Maher reported on the analysis of equalization rates for 2000 and 2001. He described the process and how the results are achieved. He compared the change in full value of January 2000 and January 2001 for every city and town in the state. The study compiled was incorporated in a document, which he shared with the members for their review. Several questions and concerns were following the discussion.

Q. What samples are used for 2002? Are they new or the same samples from last year? There needs to be consistency in the rate results from town to town, etc. Why does one page show different percentages?

Tim reported in response that in some cases new samples were used and in some cases old samples were used. We are still doing analysis for 2002. He will revise the document and reissue it to members for the next meeting.

Dave Williams passed out a document to share with the group for discussion. He reported how 2002 equalization rates would be different than 2001 equalization rates. ORPS is trying to determine the level of assessment based on IAAO standards. ORPS is using new techniques and models to do mass appraisal. 2002 survey appraisals are done. ORPS expects to see some impact from municipality to municipality and maybe some volatility. The last survey was four years ago. If ORPS finds something that looks out of line ORPS will go back and explain it. How can ORPS make the numbers make sense? For 2003 ORPS will focus more on the local assessment, but ORPS wants to start working collaboratively throughout the year to determine LOA's. Local officials working with ORPS upfront, is the key to more accurate equalization rates. The market does appear to be going up and it is more pronounced in the lower Hudson Valley. There are lower increases in the market in other parts of the State. ORPS is hoping to sit down with the towns and hear their concerns and make appropriate changes when ORPS can. Dave will bring back some information for the next meeting in September such as the results of the CAMA modeling, sales, etc. After the discussion the following questions were asked.

How many years are being used and how do you determine who is right? How is the rate adjustment being done? What about the retros? What is the percentage change? Can we put this on the agenda for the next meeting?

Dave answered the various questions asked. He explained that in some instances ORPS is trending multiple years, and in other instances ORPS does not trend at all. It all depends upon conditions in the assessing unit. He also explained that retro appraisals are being done, and he believes this is somewhere around 40% of the appraisals. ORPS can do a review of the results at an upcoming RPTAC meeting.

Frank Ferrari asked Sue how does she relay the information that she learns at the RPTAC meetings and suggested using FAQ's to get this information out? Sue suggested putting it in the ORPS publication under the questions format that currently exists.

Action Item: Tim will send a revised document to Dan and Dan will get it out to the members. Dave will provide more information at the next meeting. Dave will have the Saratoga pilot for discussion, pre-decisional collaboration, etc. Dan will add these items on the next agenda. 

    1. Customer Relationship Management 

Dick Harris reported that the pilots have been successful. Although they are still finishing the work they are no longer in pilot status. This coming year ORPS is going statewide. Many other models are included. ORPS has a statewide 2002-2003 strategic plan to move the operation. There are several sub plans within that strategic plan also. ORPS has information sharing orientation to discuss how we are moving forward with internal and external staff. The Solutions Center is being developed to solve problems people are having. It will give quick answers to questions asked and will allow regional staff to work with the assessors more directly. ORPS also has a cultural barrier analysis effort under way which identifies the biggest things that are holding people back. ORPS is putting in place standards for professionals, in behavior and solving problems. Management is driven to help others help themselves. This would allow staff to be more involved in the decision making process through the Customer Relationship Managers. This is an agency wide effort with most of the regional staff to be transitioned in September, as customer relationship managers. The lost of resources is driving this effort. ORPS needs to talk to the assessors and the county directors to move forward with the work ORPS expects to do over the next two or three years in conjunction with the assessment community. 

    1. Legislative Hot Issues 

Joe Gerberg shared documentation with the group for discussion regarding new amendments to the STAR progress. A proposed triennial star process did not go anywhere but in the alternative, an option for the seniors to apply for income verification via a form, was introduced. Assessors would provide the form and pass that information to Tax and Finance for verification. That would alleviate seniors applying for enhanced every year. Assessors would notify seniors that they are still in the program by letter. Some questions followed the discussion.

Someone from the assessment community should be part of the discussion in determining these changes. Can people file earlier than December?

ORPS would send the income forms to Tax and Finance without keeping a record of the seniors' social security numbers. Assessors would only be doing edits to the documents not redoing them each year. ORPS is trying to make this happen. Dan suggested that this should be a topic on the next agenda.

Paul Miller provided handouts for discussion of the Legislative Session data. 12 bills have passed both houses and there are others that have not gone to the Governor yet. There is a new exemption program being created for some cities. 93 bills have passed one house. The assessor's large property bill passed in the Senate. County director's bill passed the Senate last week and came out of Ways and Means today. Most everything is in Ways and Means. There is little warning about what is being discussed before hand. Paul discussed several bills of interest.

Q. Where is railroad litigation?

A. ORPS is on track and three railroads are in federal court. Norfolk Southern got an injunction last year but no such injunction for this year. Cheasapeake Southern is going ahead with legislation with a possible trial before the end of the year. If the bill passes the litigation will be dropped.

Action Item: Dan will add STAR program operational on next agenda.

Day 2

  • Data Warehouse 

Bruce Sauter passed around a document for discussion. The document showed the current status of 2002 assessment rolls currently loaded (as of the previous Monday night) to the ORPS Data Warehouse for rate analysis, listed by county, with an indicated percentage missing and on the next sheet, the actual places missing. RPTAC members may want to contact assessors to encourage the submission of the missing roll information to facilitate the delivery of equalization rates.

Another document also passed out listing data warehouse users and recent activity. There are approximately 900 current users. ORPS is looking at security issues to improve the system.

Ruth reported on the e-commerce community. ORPS is trying to make sure everyone has an email address and can be connected to the ORPS on-line and the data warehouse. 

  • Valuation Issues 

Both assessors and county director's agreed they would like the Valuation Guidelines on CD ROM distributed and for ORPS to provide training related to those guidelines.

The communication plan submitted by the Valuation Issues Team outlined their anticipated announcement procedures.

All participating groups (assessors, county directors and ORPS) thought they would be willing to participate in course development. The next meeting of the Valuation Issues Team is scheduled for June 27th. Jeff Jordan would be in charge of developing the educational programs with assessment community assistance. Jeff will identify some Guidelines for initial course development. Bruce asked to have people identified who will participate from the assessors and county directors to Jeff by June 27th meeting. Jeff Jordan suggested about 10 names perhaps (maybe 3 from each organization) for a few meetings to start. Frank Ferrari will talk to Jeff about coordinating this with the revised Assessor Training Program.

Bruce asked the group for approval to establish a ListServ for "Valuation Issues", an electronic forum that would be managed through ORPS, but open to the entire assessment community. Some questions arose regarding the lack of understanding of what a ListServ is and how it could be used. RPTAC requested that regional offices reach out to assessors and county directors (as well as ORPS staff) to improve the understanding. RPTAC agreed that Bruce should go ahead with the ListServ.

Multiple Parcel Sales - Bruce referred to document (from Colleen Benson) that he had shared with group for discussion. The issues that the Valuation Team is working through on multi-parcel sales, is directly linked to improvement of large parcel valuation issues.

Forestry - Dick Harris reported on the initiative. He described the system ORPS uses to value state land. There may be a need to change the system. ORPS can't sustain the system with current resources because it is getting harder to maintain accurate inventories with the resources (staffing and funding). ORPS is currently doing about 80,000 acres of forest inventory a year. Dick shared a document with the group for discussion. Forested state land is distributed according to value on the document. Dick put together a group to try to improve the efficiency of the program. They propose to replace the currently developed 185 separate land schedules with 8 to 10 land schedules in broad forestry market areas. ORPS resources will also limit ORPS to about 40,000 acres of re-inventory per year. ORPS is limiting the efforts to municipalities where State Owned Lands (SOL) is a significant part of the roll. ORPS will honor any existing commitments in approved 6-year plans for annual reassessments; however, as new plans are developed ORPS will have to re-evaluate our commitment ability at that time. ORPS will share any forestry market information from our analysis with the assessment community to assist them in developing their own values. Bruce discussed the timber stumpage inventory and the market analysis of this. ORPS doesn't have inventory on all private forestlands, but ORPS will share what they have. ORPS is looking to schedule informational sessions over the summer and fall especially in areas of higher volumes of forested lands.

A discussion of collaboration on long-term forestry valuation improvements followed. Two suggestions followed this discussion. One suggestion was to get a list of people from the various organizations to work together on forestry improvements and the other was to reach out to the community directly. The group agreed to go ahead with the sessions where planned changes and direction would be discussed. Names of anyone interested in participating in such an effort would be collected and forwarded to each of the groups to identify their selected representatives at that time. Agenda item for September meeting: Report back on this.

Action Item: Bruce will develop a plan to expand the availability market analysis through the Internet (on the "Assessment Community" extranet). 

  • Property Class Code Team  

Sue reported on the progress of the team. Team members include Sue Otis (Chair), Patrick Duffy, Peter Galerneau, Jim Haskell, David Shanley, and Bruce Sauter. She passed around a document and shared information with the group. Sue made reference to #5 on the Property Class Code Team Charter. Charter is approved and will be posted on the Internet to replace existing charter with changes. Some questions followed this discussion.

Q. Should other agencies be included in this Property Classification Code process? If you reuse codes, it may create problems with reference to new and old codes. What are problems with using codes that are not currently being used, but not necessarily in the appropriate taxonomy of the category to be added (will they be found and used appropriately?) or should we consider creating a miscellaneous field?

A. PCC team members response: We need to be very conservative about opening it up to a possible pandora's box of external involvement. What groups should be engaged and which ones should not? Who speaks for the group? If there are more groups than the assessment community, what controls the decision-making? In summary, soliciting input or communicating changes is ok, but they should not be part of the decision-making process.

Team recommendations on: consolidation of Mines and Quarries was approved, consolidation of 441, 442, 445 into 441 - Fuel storage and distribution facilities was approved, 445 (formerly Coal Yard and Bins - with only 37 parcels statewide) will be replaced by 445 - Mini-storage (self-storage) warehouse, additional industrial codes would be added to discriminate among 712 - High tech manufacturing, 714 - Light industrial manufacturing, and 715 - Heavy Manufacturing. No other property class changes were approved.

In summary, on the waterfront codes question, the team needs to consider more before moving forward with a recommendation. Bruce suggested a draft could be shared by email after team reviews and then presented at the September meeting.

Manufactured Housing - Bill Cinquanti presented documentation for review. He asked team members to review and respond at next meeting. Valuation Team and Property Class teams will have to decide which one will handle this issue. 

  • Assessment Calendar 

Sue spoke about creating assessment rolls and asked is the calendar sufficient? ORPS suggested moving valuation date back may make the information available sooner to everyone who uses this information. Forming a team to study this subject and coordinate an alliance effort is needed. Sue will recommend two people and Tom Bloodgood will recommend two people. JoAnn Whalen agreed to be the contact from ORPS for Sue and Tom and asked to be notified by July 1, if possible. A charter needs to be outlined and duties assigned. The team will report back at next meeting. 

  • RPS  

Rick discussed the Help Desk and his response upon bringing the idea to the community. He wanted clarification of when the Solutions Center would be up and running.

Ruth reported that this is a complicated process, which would be established over time. ORPS is using two different information systems also. PC Anywhere would also allow staff from Albany through the solution center to solve problems. ORPS does not have a date yet for the RPS Solutions Center implementation but recognize the importance and the need of implementation.

RPS V4. Dennis discussed the RPS V4 Report document with the group. The governance group recognized that it needed to resolve two issues: the need for RPS V4 on the AS400 platform and the need to improve the centralized delivery and support of RPS V4. Thus the search for a RPS V5 "open architecture" solution. RPS V5 needed to include all the functionality of V4, use only one set of program code, run on any hardware platform, and work with any vendor database. Nine companies responded to an RFI. RPS Governance Group evaluated the responses and found that all specifications and requirements could not be met because of the conflicting requirements, language, coding, hardware, costs, etc. No specific solution was available to meet all requirements. The system would also have to be cost effective. The RPS Governance group will have to continue looking at ways we can make the changes effectively and to stabilize V4 to make support and delivery more effective. The group met with OMT and voiced their concerns with Mr. Jim Dillon, Director of OFT. The RPS Governance Group will be presenting an RPS business case to him, which better describes the communities, needs and the value of RPS data to the Statewide community. Also Dennis suggested that assessors and county directors go to their legislators, as well. The Unisys mainframe system will no longer be available after 2003. Riverhead, Suffolk and Chenango counties are the only remaining Unisys sites. ORPS will be reaching out to them to transition off the platform. Some questions followed the discussion.

Q. Why aren't sales quarterly inventory being submitted with V3/V4 on a quarterly basis? Is it going to be required and should it be?

A. Ruth explained the process and the reasons for it being done a certain way. Inventory with the sale brings in something more current or relevant. It improves the data for our use and the assessment community. Dan explained that this issue would need to be discussed in respective groups before a policy could be put in place. 

  • Escrow Accounts 

Multiple parcels - Doug reported on this in Paul Burckart's absence. He described the process of the forms being submitted. The 953 form has been changed in that there are two forms now instead of one. Joe Gerberg explained that this issue was brought to RPTAC in prior meetings and it was decided that this new form was necessary. If the form needs to be changed again that can be discussed. Group decision to discuss this in a team effort and bring back to a future meeting for further discussion. Joe will be contacting Sue and Tom for members to discuss this issue and bring back to RPTAC at next meeting. Joe will take this issue back to the team and coordinate this effort of changing the form.

Action Item: Joe will reconstitute the 953 form.

Statewide bank codes - There was some discussion about the desirability of establishing a statewide bank code system, but after Rich Sinnott observed that ORPS would not be in a position to assume this responsibility, the discussion ended. 

  • Current Issues 

Rich Sinnott reported that the latest opinion of counsel has been published. You can get your request in and Dorothy Duell can take care of them.

Wrap Up

Next meeting September 5, and 6, 2002.

Next Agenda
Pre-decisional Collaboration Examples
Assessment Calendar Team
Legislative items that passed
Training Team

Any other ideas for the agenda can be presented to Doug Barton and Rick Hubner via telephone for the next meeting