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Department of Taxation and Finance

Real Property Tax Administration Committee

Thursday and Friday December 11 & 12, 2003 (1-5 p.m. & 8:30-1 p.m.)
Office of Real Property Services
Albany, New York 12210

Facilitator: Tom Rutnik
Recorders: Tammy Stallings
Assessors:Cathy Conklin, Tom Frey, Richard Hubner, Patrick Duffy, Todd Wiley and Peter Galarneau
Others: Sue Otis
County Directors: Doug Barton, Valeria Coggin, Caryn Kolts, Jim Gonyo, Dorothy Martin and Mike Swan
ORPS: Tom Griffin, Tom Bellard, Richard Sinnott and JoAnn Whalen
Others: Geoff Gloak, Jim O'Keeffe, Tim Maher, Robert Zandri, Chuck Aviza, Jeff Jordan, Paul Szwedo, Steve Harrison, Bill Godell, Mike Griffen, Joe Gerberg, Jeff Green, Dennis Jersey

Get Organized

Minutes were approved with no changes. 

    1. Leaders Report  

Assessors (Rick Hubner) – Rick asked that the topic of ORPS support for municipalities doing annual assessment and in litigation be added to the agenda. Rick used the example of the Town of Malta; Sue Otis (Assessor of the Town of Malta) was in attendance. The topic was added.

Rick noted that ORPS sent a letter concerning bills for appraisal support used in litigation with NYSEG. His issue was that the letter was sent during the September RPTAC meeting, but was not discussed at RPTAC.

Rick also asked that RPS V4 be added to the agenda. He feels that V4 is struggling and leaves much to be desired. He believes that the inability to show more than one owner on tax bills and assessment rolls is a major defect. This issue has been discussed at RPS Governance.

County Directors (Doug Barton) - Doug asked that two issues be added to the agenda. The first was raised by at the Western Regional County Directors meeting and involved adding the equivalent full value change to assessment increase notices and Doug wanted to get the opinion of the Assessors. The second concerns the RP-5217 form. County Directors form the southern part of the state want to add a box, for Life Estate, to the form. Both topics were added to the agenda.

ORPS (Tom Griffen) - No comment. 

    1. Training - The charter for the Training Oversight Team developed by the Ad Hoc Training Team was reviewed. Issues discussed concern term limits. It was noted that there is one content developer from ORPS and that there are not enough County Directors to fill the many teams. The charter states that the duration of the team is four years and ORPS wants to retain the ability to make changes. Other issues discussed were informing the State Board and developing a communication plan. Tom Griffen stated that the new team would finalize the charter. Changes to the Charter can be made at any team meeting.

      The following decisions were made:
      - The Training Oversight Team charter will be discussed at the next State Board meeting.
      - The team will create a communication plan.
      - The team will meet for the first time during the first quarter of 2004

      Team Members (County) - Term
      County Directors:
      - Tom Bloodgood (Schuyler County) - 3 year
      - Dave Jackson (Westchester County) - 2 year
      - Open (County) - 1 year

      - Dave Briggs (Cortland County) - 3 year
      - Tom Frey (Town of Thompson) - 2 year
      - Cathy Conklin (Town of Clarkstown) - 1 year

      - Robert Zandri (Albany)
      - Tom Bellard (Albany) (Will Coordinate 1st meeting)
      - Chuck Aviza (Newburgh)

      At Large Members had not been determined. Tom Griffen noted the following potential candidates:
      - Bill McClure (Adult Education)
      - Mark Armstrong (HVCC)

      It was noted that the at large members would not be chosen until after the first meeting to allow for determination of skills needed.

      The training program developed by the Ad Hoc Training Team was also reviewed. It was noted that recommended changes would require a change to rules. Recommendations were:
      - Fundamental - Add 5 days of Training (Focus on Valuation - Sales Approach)
      - Comprehensive - Reduced to 20 days
      - 6 year program    

    2. SWP03-08#1 (State/Local Equalization - Improve business processes associated with State and local equalization by making them more unified, open, visible and understandable, while improving local government confidence in the State verification program.) - Tom Griffen gave an introduction and explanation of the ORPS Strategic Work Plan (SWP03-08#1) State and Local Equalization. JoAnn Whalen, Dave Williams, Tim Maher, Jeff Green, Jim O'Keeffe and Mike Griffen gave progress updates on the eight initiatives:


      1. Evaluate the efficiency of the State Aid equity incentive program, and recommend improvements.
      2. Streamline and improve ORPS' process for verifying current, uniform assessment rolls for municipalities in the State aid equity incentive program.
      3. Improve and enhance statistical analysis and mass appraisal throughout the Real Property Tax System.
      4. Develop and adapt technology based improvements for purposes of valuation.
      5. Enhance the integrity of sales and inventory data.
      6. Manage evolutionary change in the RPS while preserving our investment.
      7. Advance the quality of equalization by fostering use of systematic analysis and other equalization methodologies by all in the assessment community.


Tax Shift Due to Re-assessment

      - Dave Williams reviewed a spreadsheet giving an explanation of the tax shift in the Town of Owego (Tioga County). The group discussed the issue of how to anticipate this kind of situation to make it better known before tax bills are sent out. Doug Barton asked how could we protect the taxpayer in a town that shares a town with a school district with a town that has not done a revaluation in years. Todd Wiley suggested legislation to cap the equalization shift. Dave mentioned that you have to limit segment shift. Doug stated that no segment should change more than 5%.

Action Item (2003#26): (Equalization Sub-committee) Tax shifts due to Re-assessment. Analyze rate data to determine scope of issue. Determine ways to inform involved assessing jurisdictions sooner. Advise of potential legislative changes. 

  1. Annual Assessment Survey - The group charged by RPTAC to conduct a symposium on Annual Assessment distributed a memo and report from the Symposium. Dick Harris stated that the team had fulfilled their obligation and asked RPTAC for further direction. RPTAC Members stated that they would like to see an analysis with Findings and Recommendations. Dick stated that a team had been formed at ORPS to analyze the data as part of a Stakeholder feedback effort.

    Action Item (2003#27): Annual Assessment Stakeholder Feedback Pilot Team will present their Findings and Recommendations at the March RPTAC meeting. (Annual Assessment Stakeholder Pilot Team)  

  2. Valuation Issues - Chuck Aviza and Jim O'Keeffe addressed outstanding RPTAC Action Items (2003 #4,5 and 6). First Chuck Aviza discussed a PR strategy to encourage Town Boards to support reassessments (2003#6). It was noted that existing wording already used in another ORPS publication (Fair Assessments) would be made available on the ORPS Web Site and the respective assessor and county directors sites.

    Action Item (2003#31): Draft wording to encourage Town Boards to allow interior inspection. Determine plan to publicize material. (Tom Frey, Chuck Aviza, Jim O'Keeffe, Joe M.)

    Data mailers (Action Item 2003#5) were also discussed. It was noted that extra interior items could be added to a data mailer. People felt that the flexibility of data mailers should be publicized.

    Jim O'Keeffe discussed the following issues that have been blended together:
    - The assessor's inability to gain access for interior inspections. Neither ORPS nor the assessor can enter without the owner's permission.
    - What do the rules require assessors to maintain as inventory records?
    - State Aid implications, to get aid local governments must maintain inventory as required in rules, substantial compliance standard. No locality has been denied money for failure to do interior inspections.

    Tom Frey wanted clarification on Nassau County. He inquired if it is ORPS' position that interior inspections are not required for re-assessments. No determination had been made on Nassau County State Aid for this year.  

  3. NYSEG Bills: The group discussed the bills for appraisal work concerning the NYSEG lawsuit. The bills were sent to over 400 municipalities. Rick Hubner reiterated his complaint on the timing of the communication. Also, he noted that NYC had been more involved but this is the AG's call and not ORPS.

    Phil Hembt reviewed the process used by ORPS to hire appraisers for litigation purposes. The process takes 4 to 6 months to hire an appraiser; many appraisers are not familiar with working for NYS. He also gave a history of this litigation and the many miscommunications throughout.

    Cathy Conklin discussed the problems downstate with Special Franchise. A settlement was made and communicated about 10 days before school taxes went out. The municipality did not know of the decision and this caused problems. The group decided that communication issues need to be discussed and a plan put in place to improve them.

    Action Item (2003#28): Create plan to improve communication concerning Special Franchise. (ORPS - Don Card, Phil Hembt, Assessors - Cathy Conklin)    

  4. E-Government - Knowledge Sharing - Paul Szwedo gave an update of the E-Government Guidance Team (EGT) and Internet Services Oversight Team (ISOT). ISOT had its kick-off meeting in late November and EGT in early December. EGT discussed their long-term plans and vision.

    EGT Members
    - Bruce Sauter
    - JoAnn Whalen
    - Paul Szwedo
    - Dick Harris
    - Dennis Jersey
    - Bob Gawrelski

    County Directors:
    - Dave Hastings (Oswego)
    - Robin Johnson (Ontario)

    - Paul Maniacek (Multiple Towns Warren County)
    - Mario Areyelo (C. Oneonta)

    - Randy Deal (Multiple Towns Schuyler County)

    Paul Szwedo gave a demonstration of a new area for Knowledge Sharing in the secure assessment community area on the ORPS Web Site. Tom Frey suggested a demonstration at the AOT. The main concern is promoting the sharing and publicizing the availability of the resource, and encouraging all parties to contribute.

    Action Item (2003#32): Send communication in January concerning the Knowledge Sharing effort to Tom Frey and Tom Bloodgood for their use. (Knowledge Sharing Team - Paul Szwedo, JoAnn Whalen, Patrick Duffy, Valeria Coggin)   

  5. STAR - Robert Zandri reported on the STAR program. He noted that they were nearing the completion of a cycle using the Enhanced STAR Internet Application in conjunction with the NYS Department of Tax & Finance. He also stated that the application would be re-activated for local use to print reports.

    Bill Godell discussed usage statistics for the STAR application:
    - 733 municipalities used the application (NYC dealt directly with NYS Tax and Finance);
    - 226,311 records entered;
    - 83.4% Matched - Approved;
    - 2.8% Matched - Denied;
    - 13.8% Not Matched;

    There was discussion about the life of the enhanced STAR application as it goes into the second year of use. The group decided to have a small group review the issue.

    The group had a long discussion on the STAR Postcard and the distribution of the STAR Postcard including a review of the Statute, and concern over late notification of STAR amounts. A small group was named to review the issue.

    Action Item (2003#29): Reword STAR Postcard/Letter for 2004. Decide if a letter would be better than a Postcard. (ORPS - Robert Zandri, Joe Gerberg, Assessors Rick Hubner, County Directors - Valeria Coggin)

    Action Item (2003#33): Determine life of enhanced STAR application and implications on e-star application. (ORPS - Joe Gerberg, Bill Godell, Assessors - Rick Hubner)  

  6. Form Printing and Distribution - Steve King reviewed the cost to ORPS of printing and distributing forms and booklets. The group debated the responsibility of printing and distributing the Assessment Grievance Booklet. Tom Frey felt that the language pertaining to this booklet is different than the language for other publications, Steve Harrison agreed. Tom Griffen noted that ORPS does not have funding to pay for the booklet this year, but would next year.

    Many members felt that the solution will be technical. Better integration with RPS V4 would help alleviate the overall cost to print and process forms.  

  7. Current Issues - The following issues were added to the agenda.

    Annual Assessment Support - Sue Otis (Town of Malta) had various issues to discuss surrounding a legal challenge (727) and communication between ORPS and the Town of Malta. Sue stated that a letter had been sent to ORPS requesting support in defense of their case in the challenge. Sue had just received the appealed decision and had not received any support or communication from ORPS. Members felt that communication needed to be improved on these types of matters. The Town of Malta was not happy with the court decision. They want clarification on RPTL 727. Members wanted to know if 727 could be altered. Tom Griffen felt it could be altered. Does it apply to municipalities involved in the Annual Assessment program? The group feels that an effort to educate the courts on Annual Assessment needs to be undertaken. Jim Gonyo noted that ORPS had been very helpful in assisting Clinton County in a similar case. JoAnn Whalen stated that setting up a tracking system is covered in the ORPS Strategic plan (SWP03-08#1). This has been done but using the system and communication is more difficult.

    Action Item (2003#25): Develop Educational Material for BAR, SCAR, Town Attorneys and Judges on legal issues involving Annual Assessment.

    RPS V4 - Rick Hubner felt there is a "disconnect" in RPS V4. He discussed the issue of multiple owners' names not printing on Tax Bills and Assessment Rolls.

    Action Item (2003#34): Determine if certain forms can be integrated with RPS V4 and when they might be available. (ORPS - Dennis Jersey, County Directors - Valeria Coggin)

    Adding the equivalent full value change to assessment increase notices - This issue will be discussed at the next RPTAC meeting, but the RPS V4 Change Control Board will make the ultimate decision.

    RP-5217 form - Doug Barton was asked to bring the issue of adding a box for Life Estate on the RP-5217 form. Some people feel that their municipality spends a considerable amount of time looking through deeds to see if a life estate exists. Rick Hubner noted that a check box on a form couldn't always be relied upon. The RP-5217 will be discussed at a future RPTAC meeting.

    Niagara Mohawk Litigation - Rich Sinnott gave an update on litigation with Niagara Mohawk. There have been three decisions, all in favor of the municipalities (Bethlehem, North Tonawanda and Colonie). Information will be posted on the ORPS Web Site with more information on the cases.  

  8. RPTAC Sub-Team Update - Tom Rutnik handed out a list of active and inactive teams that have been chartered by RPTAC. The group discussed communication requirements for these teams. It was decided that Tom Rutnik would communicate with active teams chartered by RPTAC and review the teams communication requirements to RPTAC


  9. RPTAC Guidelines and Ground Rules - The group discussed ways to make the RPTAC meetings more effective. The following suggestions were made:

    - Summarize and be clear on each topic and action item.
    - Establish Specific dates for each action item.
    - ORPS needs time to prepare for "new issues".
    - Topic presenters need to be precise in stating issues.
    - ORPS staff needs to drive meetings between RPTAC meetings.
    - Non-RPTAC ORPS program staff should be present and part of discussions that lead to action items (when possible).
    - Remove Leaders Report and move current issues to the front of the meeting.
    - Clean up RPTAC Web Board and update RPTAC section on ORPS Web Site.

    Action Item (2003#30) Communicate with active teams chartered by RPTAC. Review teams communication requirements to RPTAC. Tom Rutnik will age certain items on the RPTAC Web Board to clean up the site and update RPTAC section on ORPS Web Site. He also will reach out to all RPTAC members to ensure they have access to the RPTAC Web Board. (ORPS - Tom Rutnik). 

Next meeting:
Date: March 25th-26th 2004
Location: ORPS – 16 Sheridan Avenue Albany