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Department of Taxation and Finance

Real Property Tax Administration Committee

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

Facilitator: JoAnn Whalen and Tom Rutnik
Recorders: Tammy Stallings
Assessors:Cathy Conklin, Tom Frey, Richard Hubner, Nick Longo, Sue Otis and Fred Pask
County Directors: Doug Barton, William Cinquanti, Valeria Coggin, Jim Gonyo, Joe Maciejewski, and Dorothy Martin
ORPS: Tom Bellard, Frank Ferrari, Tom Griffin, Richard Harris, Bruce Sauter and Richard Sinnott
Others: Mario Arevalo, Karen Barrett, Patrick Duffy, Rosalie Fahey, Dawn Ferrar, Peter Galerneau, Joe Gerberg, Geoffrey Gloak, Jeff Green, Mike Griffen, Dennis Jersey, Jeff Jordan, Tim Maher, Paul Miller, Walter Smead, Dave Williams, and Robert Zandri

  • Get Organized

JoAnn Whalen introduced herself and Tom Rutnik. They will be the facilitators for today's meeting. Tom Rutnik will continue as the facilitator for future meetings. ORPS RPTAC members at the table introduced themselves and noted that Bruce Sauter will be replacing Vince O'Connor who has retired from ORPS. The agenda was revised to add the Saratoga Pilot/Future Collaboration topic to tomorrow's agenda instead of today.

Minutes were approved.

  • Leader's Report

Assessors - Rick announced that this is Fred's last meeting. Group thanked Fred for his participation in the meeting and said he would be missed.

Concerns were raised about ORPS retirees, programs being affected and ORPS current contacts. A statement was made that some of the information on the ORPS's website (COD data was used as an example) is out dated and needs to be updated as soon as possible.

Sue Otis raised questions about the Annual Reassessment program and how it effects the ORPS' strategic plan. Sue stated the Ad hoc team members had a meeting and they agreed to address the issues out there. We could get in a location and sit down and discuss it, but we don't want to do it regionally. We want to see if we are experiencing the same problems and find out why we are not at the same table.

Frank informed members that in reference to Sue's idea regarding the annual reassessment symposium, we have a recommendation from CTG for three other possible candidates to help with this effort.

Action Items: Add the ORPS Website (Bruce Sauter) and ListServ to the December RPTAC meeting agenda.

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 announced that this is Bill Cinquanti's and Ron Shelter's last meeting. Doug thanked Bill and Ron for their work on RPTAC. RPTAC members said thank you and goodbye to Bill and Ron. They will be missed. Doug introduced Valeria Coggin, as a new RPTAC member. Jim Gonyo, Joe Maciejewski, Dorothy Martin and Doug Barton will remain, as RPTAC members. Doug Barton stated that 1537 reimbursement for the counties was discussed at the August conference. Kim Manley from ORPS will report on that issue to Frank Ferrari and he will share that information at the December RPTAC meeting.

Action Item: ORPS, Frank Ferrari will share reimbursement information with RPTAC members at the December RPTAC meeting.

ORPS - Tom Griffen talked about the changes at ORPS. ORPS's leadership team now consists of Tom Griffen, Bruce Sauter, Tom Bellard, JoAnn Whalen, Dick Harris, Frank Ferrari. Bruce is now CIO and JoAnn is SIO with responsibilities in leading the strategic efforts and the Strategic Management Plan.

Tom Griffen talked about the reduction in staff due to early retirements. ORPS prepared a plan last summer to reorganize due to retirements. We don't anticipate any changes in programs because of retirements. A new directory and an organizational chart will be available to members shortly on the RPTAC Web Board.

Bruce Sauter informed the members about the Solutions Center and its functions. We are creating the Solutions Center, which will provide assistance for multiple areas and Q&A functions available 24 hours a day.

Action Item: ORPS, Jeffrey Gloak - a new ORPS directory and an organizational chart will be available to RPTAC members shortly on the RPTAC Web Board. Jeff will talk to Jim Dunne on the status of C.O.D.'s on the website. 

    1. Training Update 

Report from Ad Hoc - Frank reviewed and discussed material that was provided at the March RPTAC meeting. He reported on the reimbursement issue. He discussed the attendance at the conferences and summer school and the dollars spent on this effort. He discussed the proportions of money spent and that a significant amount of money was spent on basic training. He informed the members that in April a new apportionment for reimbursement was discussed. Basic training vouchers and continuing education breakdowns for expenditures were given. Frank discussed the meeting held in July with CEANY, Columbia Greene and Hudson Valley. They talked about the current program and shared information about utilizing their facilities for training. Frank informed the RPTAC members that the ad hoc training team is comprised of ORPS members, assessors and other members. At the last meeting specific courses and comprehensive programs were provided.

We are looking to compress the time frame for fundamental requirements. We are also discussing the structure for basic and continuing education. Currently both are required. Some assessors although not required, may take the courses. There were discussions around who is eligible. We are looking to keep the training schools in place at cost and discussing whether we can reduce the costs at the conference or utilize an overnight stay to lower the costs. October and November telephone conferences have been arranged.

Questions concerning the time frame for the fundamental requirements were raised. Is there a statute change involved? A suggestion was made and agreed to that Tom Frey be brought into the meetings. Tom Griffen has actual numbers that will provide necessary information.

Frank Ferrari stated that the time frame for the fundamental requirements is three years. The total requirement including comprehensive is between five and eight years. We are looking at the guidelines to obtain it more quickly. No statute or rule change is needed.

Tom Griffin summarized the meeting. What we did was brainstorm about training and saving and spending dollars in the programs. We may reduce AOT to save costs and we are looking at several options. We are getting closer to our goal of reducing costs through our simulations.

Action Item: Ad hoc is not putting together a Charter at this time but are working toward a plan for next year. We will discuss this more at the next RPTAC meeting in December. 

    1. Equalization Issues 

There were a number of issues raised and discussed: Tim Maher reported on the equalization rates for 2002. He described the process of the full value changes and reassessments analysis with the group. Percentages and averages of full value change were discussed with respect to the reassessments. He presented a document for review and several questions and concerns followed the discussion.

The following questions were raised: Does the level of assessment at 96 include 100 as an equalization rate? Is the equalization rate in comparison with the full value of 98? Is volatility shown in the document? How many annual reassessment towns are there in this state? How many of those towns were certified? The way that ORPS is doing reassessments and allowing for tolerances is causing problems for my some of the communities. ORPS's percentages are too low and don't reflect the current level of assessments or market value. The different standards that ORPS is applying is not right for everyone. Is the time adjustment across the Board? Is non-lake the same as lakefront? Tom Frey stated he would like to be more involved in the process. Is ORPS working with the annual reassessment on the value verification process? Is the 5% really 5% or is it more?

Tim reported that the data shows that ORPS is consistent with its averages statewide.

He indicated there were approximately 230 to 240 towns, which completed 2002 annual reassessments. Of these he felt approximately a dozen were not accepted at 100% of value. Some are over 100 percent due to state land and a variety of issues, others under 100% because major types were not at 100%.

We are looking at time adjustments in sales ratios. There have been complaints about making adjustments for sales occurring late in the year. ORPS plans to address this for 2003 rates.

For next year we will probably begin using CAMA modeling and sales ratio studies as part of the reassessment verification process.

ORPS is not observing the commercial market place moving as fast as the residential.

The equalization subcommittee should address the issues brought up as part of the 2002 equalization rate process, and be involved in potential changes for 2003.

In summary, Bruce Sauter stated that as many as possible of the approaches should be tried and then we should evaluate the strengths and weaknesses. The most appropriate one should be picked. There is no single basis in the methodology. Multiple approaches should lead to the same answer.

Action Item: Equalization sub-committee will address this issue and look at ways to improve this process. 

    1. Saratoga Pilot Pre-decisional Collaboration 

Dave Williams spoke about what pre-decisional collaboration is. Systematic analysis was discussed. We have 3 different levels we want to apply. Level 1, consists of having ORPS share with all local officials the data. Level 2, consists of ORPS sitting down with local officials and looking at the data, the market and how the local official arrives at his data. Working proactively to next year. Level 3, consists of focusing on the LOA. Local officials come out of the process and ORPS monitors the work we are doing. This year we can't bring everyone to level 3 with staff reductions. Some level 2 situations may be available in some areas.

What is the time frame? It is usually too late for us? We work off of different calendars, how can we get together on this? Will the regional staff be able to handle this in all areas?

ORPS responded. The time frame is tough for us also. We need to train staff. We are trying to get staff ready for this also. It won't be perfect this year, hopefully better next year. We have to start somewhere. We need to start on 2003 calendar year and see what does it look like for next year. We are looking at calendars to see what changes we can make. All regions will not be able to do it. Some regions will have more skills than others.

Jeff Green reported on the Saratoga pilot pre-decisional collaboration. At the RPTAC meeting in June I talked about our December pilot project. Our collaboration sessions included 3-day workshops, working outside of meetings and sharing with assessors. The pilot has been completed. We took evaluation of the pilot very seriously. We looked at several things. First, the time and effort spent. Second, whether this effort can be sustained next year. We have a strain on resources but will try to bring other municipalities into this. We are trying to simplify the CAMA process so that everyone can use it. Our recommendations for 2002-2003 are to start earlier. A subcommittee is being formed and we are creating a calendar. The planning committee is working on Saratoga County VFF to solicit information. Half-day classes as well as a newsletter are being considered. ListServe is also an option. For upcoming meetings we want to bring the original participants back to the meetings to engage them in the process. A 5-day class is also an option.

Is there collaboration in any other counties other than Saratoga? Level 2 does sound more realistic than Level 3.

ORPS, yes, Level 2 was done in Onondaga County. Commercial property trends in Westchester County were done also. 

    1. STAR/Leg. News/Escrow Accounts/953RPTL 

STAR - Robert Zandri reported on the Star program. He shared a document about the per parcel reimbursement at local levels of government rate per parcels. A discussion about the preparation and receipts followed. Some towns get the money for the work and some schools get the money for not doing the work. Bob suggested that some of these issues do need to be addressed at some point, however he is not sure at which meeting. Perhaps there should be a meeting or committee to discuss this issue. The issue of whether the checks being written should be submitted right away. Bob suggested getting the checks in as soon as possible. Vouchers are currently being reviewed and processed by comptroller's office.

Several questions followed the discussion.

Will Tax and Finance hold up the program? When will it be finalized? Where is the money for tax bill preparation and receipts going? Who apportions this money?

ORPS, Jeff Gloak reported that ORPS is working on it. It should be available soon. Bob Zandri reported the money is going to taxpayers or tax receivers. The Department of Budget has the final approval on this process.

Bob Zandri reported on the STAR Income Verification Program and Tax and Finance with respect to tax map, block and lot. He discussed working with Tax and Finance to develop separate from RPS an application to extract parcels that have applied for this option. Exemptions would be given a unique code. Income verification would accompany this. This would be done at either the municipal level or the county level. We are still looking into that issue. The purpose of this would be to minimize the data entry to include only the social security numbers. We would accumulate this file and pass it along to Tax and Finance. Tax and Finance would determine whether it would qualify or not. The term year would need to be added to the basic mechanism that already assists.

Can you put a terminal in each office relative to Tax and Finance? Why can't we get a list from Tax and Finance and use that for next year? When and how will this information be related to the assessment community? What about maintaining the database and parcel information? Why aren't the assessors and county directors involved in this process?

ORPS, the custody of the information issue has been raised. The fact that social security numbers is something they already deal with they are accustomed to deal with this also. If local officials could go in and modify these files annually that would work as well. The turn around would be in a timely fashion, and would include those who qualify and those who do not. Tax and Finance doesn't have all the complete information that you need at this point. If this process were in place Tax and Finance would not have the information because tax returns and amended returns and still being filed in August. However, we are trying to get this in place with Tax and Finance.

Action Item: Bob Zandri will be available to discuss this further, if assessors and county directors want to get together or discuss this issue. A group of three assessors and three county directors will be submitted to Bob Zandri by September 09, 2002.

Legislative Hot Issues - Steve reported on the Cohoes legislation. The RPTAC members did not receive this very well. They expressed concerns about the message that this sends. An annual reassessment review or symposium group may not be enough. He suggested finding another way to get the information out.

Sue Otis stated that there was a class held in Utica where the Cohoes issue was discussed. Someone speaking described the assessing process incorrectly. Is this what is being taught by ORPS? This has to be addressed.

Escrow Accounts - Steve reported on the 924 form. RPTAC members agreed that the form would remain as is. 

    1. Valuation Issues 

Valuation Issues - Data Collection Cards - Bob Aiken reported on data collection cards. Changes on the RPS program were not extensive. Some fields removed but are available in the RPS program. Finished basement would have some improvements. We would like to include it in raised ranches and split-levels.

Raised ranches should not include this. It screws up the appraisal. Is there an implementation date yet? Can you get some information to us at some point and report back at the next meeting? How are you going to get it out to everyone? Can you put it in the unified standard? County director associations and assessors associations may be another opportunity to get this information out there.

ORPS, there are some fields that are different from what you may be used to. We don't know the terminology of the appraisers but we think it will be o.k. Also, even appraisers aren't always consistent. We will not have an implementation date until after we talk to RPS to see how they are affected.

Action Item: Bob, will make corrections, speak to the valuation team/committee and find out from RPS what they need to do and report back to the team with this at the RPTAC December meeting. Bob will have an implementation date at that time also. Bob will also forward the document to Tom Rutnik who will put it on the RPTAC WebBoard.

Vff - Extranet - VFF information was discussed. Assessors and county directors do not have access to this information yet. They expressed their concerns.

Why isn't the information available as promised? What is going on with this? When will it be available to us on the Internet or Extranet?

ORPS, it will be available once it is put into Acrobat Adobe (.pdf) format.

Jeff Jordan reported that CD's are being burned and will go out soon. The course should be ready for the fall of 2003. The committee comprised of Steve Curran, Mike Swan, Linda Yancey, Paul Jonke, Tom Sess and Bill Quick will meet on this issue.

Property Class Codes - Property Class Committee member Patrick Duffy reported on the progress. The options of changing the codes concerning the identification of waterfront property were discussed.

Alternatives: The option of four digits would present more problems and add confusion to the coding system. The option of three digits, if doubled would be repeating numbers or going as high as 490. The fourth option to expand the current ownership codes would include a proposal to add an additional number to distinguish the waterfront properties. We would like to have RPTAC approval to move forward with this. We can make the changes and report back. Group approved the change and will make an announcement at the NYS assessors fall conference.

What about changing the RP5217? Will this go through governance? Will we have to rename this field? If so, will it be an appropriate name?

ORPS, Bruce added 5217 should be used as is to reduce the anticipated problems. There will be a patch release, but we will be able to get the information out in time for an analysis of the 2004 roll. The information will be available in the uniform standard, our website and assessor publication. We may have to rename it, however, if we do we will give it an appropriate name.

Action Item: RPTAC members approved change. Sue Otis will report back at the NYS assessors fall conference.

Manufactured Housing - The valuation team and the property class code will decide who will report back on this. After some discussion it was decided that the valuation team is going to handle this.

Forestry - Dick Harris reported on forestry issues. We are getting started with the sessions in Newburg, and next week sessions will be in Little Valley and three more sessions in October and November. Dan Lancor from Saranac Lake will be conducting sessions. I will report back at the December RPTAC meeting with more detail.

Some concern was expressed that the presentation gave information about sales but wasn't clear about the pilot program's implementation. What about the satellites? Sales being used and developed is more of an issue than the collaboration.

ORPS, Dick, we haven't begun using the topography yet, but hope to have the resources soon. We need to simplify the system to have it work for us. The committee is discussing this issue.

Action Item: Sue Otis will talk to Joe Gerberg and Carol about whether 480 will involve a legislative change or not. 

    1. ORPS Online  

Geoff Gloak reported on a new online system developed for School Business Officials to allow them to estimate their share of the apportionment. Some concern about school districts not being able to have the correct updated information for equalization and assessment rates. Geoff suggested that school districts could talk to the assessment community during this process.

Is this a good idea? Will school districts have the right information to use? Should they even have access to this information?

ORPS, Geoff, I think it is a good thing. The school districts usually do well with sharing this information with the assessors. Perhaps they can talk to the assessors if they have any questions.

Bruce Sauter discussed making SalesWeb available to the public with a self-registration process in the near future. ORPS is working with OFT to develop the application and appropriate security measures. 

    1. RPS 

Dennis Jersey, Mike Griffen and Dawn Farrar reported on RPS V3 and V4 status. Dennis introduced himself as the new Director of Information Technology. Tom LaRose previously held this position. He also introduced Mike Griffen, who will be the new manager of RPS. He introduced Dawn Ferrar who has been with ORPS in the RPS unit for over 20 years. She also is very experienced and knowledgeable in RPS and will be assisting Mike in support of Quality Control, and external communications.

Mike discussed Build 9.0 and informed the RPTAC members that it will be released in October. Some V4 program changes are still being made to the Build 9.0 release code. The RPS Change Control Board has had five meetings and has finalized the scope of Build 10.0. Build 9.0 is in alpha phase and currently is being tested in each region. We are looking for release of Build 10.0 in October 2003. The RPS Governance Group approved the Charter for V4 and requests for enhancements and changes are being accepted and monitored using the Clear Quest tracking system. The developing period for Build 10.0 will go on until July of next year. We will continue Alpha and Beta testing of Build 9.0 and it will not be released until problems, if any, have been resolved. A GIS map indicating how many municipalities are on V4, V3, and other vendor applications was distributed to the RPTAC members for review. It was determined that by next fall there will not be many counties remaining on RPS V3. The RPTAC members were informed that the three-year RPS license fees are going up. Further discussion on this matter will conclude at future RPTAC meetings. 

    1. Assessment Calendar  

Bob Zandri provided a draft Charter, created by the Assessment Calendar team to the RPTAC members for review. Any questions or comments should be submitted as soon as possible.

Can equalization rates be added to the Charter under a heading called "other factors affecting the dates"? Can you list it under exemption certification dates, etc.?

ORPS, yes, we will modify the Charter to include equalization rates.

Action Item: Bob Zandri will modify the Charter to include equalization rates. 

    1. Wrap Up 

Next meeting December 12, and 13, 2002.

Tentative Agenda Items

      Equalization Rates

      ORPS Web Site


      Training Reimbursement

      Annual Reassessment Symposium


      Valuation Issues

      Legislative Issues

      RP5217 Form Changes

    Assessment Calendar Team Report