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Department of Taxation and Finance

Real Property Tax Administration Committee

MINUTES
Thursday and Friday March 25th & 26th, 2004 (1-5 p.m. & 8:30-1 p.m.)
Office of Real Property Services
Albany, New York 12210

Facilitator: Tom Rutnik
Recorders: Janice Heeran
Assessors:Cathy Conklin, Tom Frey, Richard Hubner, Nick Longo, Todd Wiley and Peter Galarneau
Others: Patrick Duffy
County Directors: Doug Barton, Valeria Coggin, Caryn Kolts, Dorothy Martin, Joe Maciejewski, and Richard Sheflin
ORPS: Tom Griffin, Tom Bellard, Bruce Sauter, 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, Joe Gerberg, Paul Miller, Dennis Jersey, Phil Hembt, and Kathy Keck

Get Organized

Minutes were approved with no changes.

Valuation Issues (Chuck Aviza)

Cost System (Marshall Swift / Boeckht Merger) – The merger of Marshall Swift and Boeckht and the fact that the Boeckht structure and support is to be greatly reduced necessitates some analysis and decisions regarding the cost approach. Base cost factors were last acquired in the mid-eighties, RPS/ORPS cost system has been undated with indexes since then. Decisions need to be made as the RPS inventory collection is Boeckht dependent while Marshall Swift provides cost factors for a very different data structure. The direction with the merger is to support and move toward the MS structure. In response to these issues, Chuck Aviza reviewed the history and some analysis with projected costs for future direction summarized in three possible options.

The licensing costs as well as breakouts between residential/vacant/farm and commercial/industrial choices were discussed. The options and others suggested focused on some price alternatives with the range of solutions varying from maintaining the same data collection structure and continuing to receive updates with no guarantee how long this arrangement will exist to converting to the Marshall Swift data collection format with all the implications. These two extreme alternatives were discussed while recognizing that the cost approach is one of the three approaches to value and even when not used in direct valuation support is necessary in the valuation reconciliation process. There was also discussion about some using the cost result in regression modeling. 

Either extreme or any solution in between will have ramifications at the local and state level along with the associated costs.  The issue is complex and the group decided to collect data from the assessment community and ORPS to understand better how the cost approach is used: what is used, how is it used - in support of a valuation decision or a validation check, and why?

Resolution:
Action Item (2004 #2) Chuck Aviza will convene the Valuation Issues Team to develop small set of questions which will be distributed to RPTAC for review and comments by April 9th. The final set of questions will then be used by the CRMs, generally at assessor association meetings to gather data. The results will be compiled to form the basis of continued discussion on this topic in June.

Valuation Issues Team -The group briefly reviewed the charter for the team. Decided that the Valuation Issues Team will review the charter and recommend membership and or other changes to RPTAC. In the future and as indicated in the Charter, sub-teams can be chartered to deal with specific issues. 

STAR Floors A handout, explaining how STAR Floors are determined, was distributed. The role / use of the sales adjustment factor and the change-in-level factor was explained. STAR amounts are issued prior to tentative roll so the timely receipt of the final assessment roll and AR data is critical, as a final check must be made. This assures timely re-certification if necessary. A suggestion that the CRMs could help in this process was made.

STAR Income Verification Program (IVP) Enhanced STAR- The group reviewed a handout of the revised postcard for the STAR IVP. The group felt the postcard had been improved. Distinctions were made between what is statutorily required and other things that would make assessment administration easier and more sensible to taxpayers. Many felt that the statute (Section 425(5)(b)) needs to be revised. No decision was made on how to change the statute.

A follow-up meeting with Tax and Finance that had been scheduled was postponed. Rick Hubner felt that the meeting with Tax and Finance was important and needs to happen as soon as possible. He also noted that follow-up on "undetermined" applications- of 233,000 plus applicants, 13% were "undetermined" 2-3% not accepted and 84% verified. This business process improvement opportunity is very important for the taxpayers and assessors for a smoother process that is better defined. Rick will provide some recommended changes to Bill Godell. Some assessors may be looking for totals; reconciliation with V4 and reduction of undetermined. The application will display a new field indicating the prior year matched status in addition to the current year match result.

There was a last minute glitch that affected around 1,000 taxpayers using the STAR IVP. Tax prep programs for NY returns did not calculate qualifying income correctly. A communication is being sent to taxpayers in the 147 municipalities impacted.

Action Item (2004 #1) - Q&A/FAQ and Internet content for IVP e-STAR application will be provided and made available. Robert Zandri, Rick Hubner

Action Item (2004 #3) - IVP e-STAR modification suggestions forwarded to Bill Godell within two months.

Action Item (2004 #4) Sub-group reconvenes with T&F to evaluate cycle, provide feedback and improve the process. Robert Zandri  

 RPS V4 – does not process agricultural exemptions in villages. Problem reported in 3/03 but not corrected in '04 release. Focus needs to be on communication and this needs to be addressed to and from OPRS around RP  

 What's New?   

The Public Utilities / Special Franchise section of the ORPS Web Site was reviewed. Changes had been made based on a request for better information sharing (2003 Action Item #28). The changes to the site were well received by RPTAC members. ORPS Staff was commended for the new content and their prompt response. The information is easily accessible through ORPS' home page, click on Public Utilities or the URL is:

https://www.tax.ny.gov/research/property/valuation/utilities/index.htm

Value Verification Bob Gawrelski explained the directive of ORPS' Strategic Management Plan that includes initiatives to improve State/Local Equalization. One of the initiatives is to streamline and improve ORPS' process for verifying current, uniform assessment rolls for municipalities in the State Aid equity incentive program. It calls for verification forms and processes to be reviewed annually. An internal team was formed to accomplish this initiative and a number of improvements to eliminate duplication and align equalization and state aid programs and processes were made. Tow items need further discussion with a wider group: 

Tolerances for State Aid reimbursement and potential adjustments. Earlier timing requirement for submission of a six-year Annual Reassessment Plan.

This topic will be discussed more at the June RPTAC meeting. RPTAC members should gather comments on the proposal. Bob was asked to provide the dollar impact to the State Aid program based on the proposal-some who received aid would not with tolerance changes. He will distribute that data via the RPTAC listserv mailing list.

Action Item (2004 #5) - Evaluate State Aid Impact in terms of dollars based on proposed changes to tolerances. Send results via ListServ. Bob Gawrelski

Post PDC Memo - Dave Williams reviewed a proposed memo to be sent from the CRM to Local Officials. There was considerable discussion. The memo had been discussed at the Equalization Sub-committee meeting with a recommendation that it would not be sent out this year. Some felt that there should not be communication from a CRM to elected officials while others felt that all parties should be comfortable with communicated messages. 

ORPS agreed to delay the memo and better define the purpose and timing as well as review the content. Alternatives to a memo such as a CRM led workshop with supervisor/town board were suggested as better methods than a correspondence. 

In response to a RPTAC assignment, The Equalization committee, on March 18, 2004, reviewed the issues around school tax shifts caused by changing equalization rates. ORPS staff had done considerable analysis with options that simulated the impacts of changing equalization rates on the apportionment of the September 2003 school levies and shared this data with the sub-committee. Charts summarizing the tax impact by school district segment were distributed.

Tim reported that the sub-committee reviewed this data and it is their opinion that the process is working correctly. The sub-committee recommends no change to the school tax apportionment process and recommends that there should not be limits in tax shifts. The sub-committee thinks that the focus should be on ensuring that ORPS is determining accurate market value estimates for every city and town. The sub-committee is currently reviewing the resultant market value estimates where there are not enough residential sales to conduct valid sales ratio studies. 

Two different legislative status sheets were distributed. The first showed the status of four bills that had passed both Houses of the Legislature, including one that converts the Suffolk County exemption for volunteer fire and ambulance members into a straight 10 percent exemption with no dollar limits (see Ch. 9 of the Laws of 2004, aka, A.9333). The enactment of this measure has already led to the introduction of similar acts for Nassau and Westchester counties. The second status sheet included information on other RPT related legislation. ORPS legislative pieces were discussed. Dennis described in detail the PEGS legislation and its four phases; proposal to continue annual program of $5 per parcel and phase-out triennial; proposal to change valuation from 1/1 to previous 7/1; equalization technical changes and county tax apportionment simplification.

At present, four sets of proposed amendments have been published for public comment. All four should be before the Board for adoption at the 4/27 meeting. Three sets of rules - Part 187 (State Board Hearings), Parts 190 and 192 (inventory) and Part 194 (Agricultural assessments) - are subject to the statutory five-year review this year and will be submitted to the Board at a meeting later this year for continuation or repeal. Most of the Board's rules were subject to this review last year. There were no public comments received and all were continued. Finally, a Regulatory Agenda was published in January 2004, listing four areas for possible amendments this year - training, special franchise, railroad ceilings and equalization rate complaints. 

This source data was collected during the September '03 symposium and used by the Annual Assessment Pilot Team for the following purposes:

Learn tools and techniques for gaining stakeholder feedback. Create stakeholder feedback best practices for ORPS. Evaluate the current Annual Assessment Program from the assessing community perspective.

The team used various data sources including: Fall 2003 Annual Assessment Symposium Workshop (Syracuse) and the Fall 2002 Evaluation of the NYSORPS Annual Reassessment Program by the Evaluation Consortium at the University of Albany.

Recommendations:

      • ORPS should collaborate with Real Property Tax Administration partners to develop a strategy for placing priority on "bringing in" assessing units that are not in the annual assessment program to reduce inter-jurisdictional inequity (i.e. where properties of similar market value within different assessing segments of a taxing jurisdiction have a different tax burden).
      • ORPS needs to lead the effort in building a stronger partnership with Real Property Tax Administrators to do a better and more consistent job educating the public and training the assessment community.
      • ORPS should make specific process and technical improvements in the annual reassessment program to streamline processes and eliminate inconsistencies.
      • Taxpayer notification.
      • Level of Assessment.

The group agreed that a cooperative effort is needed to move ahead: ORPS will move the recommendations forward in the Strategic Plan. A BAR/SCAR video is being developed and will be used in the western part of the state. The emphasis in this training effort is education for the judicial branch regarding the requirement of keeping assessments uniform.  RPTAC members are encouraged to share the recommendations and get comments from other members of the assessment community.   

Meeting completed in February to review the team charter. The next team meeting is scheduled for April 16th. The goals for that meeting are to finalize Charter, determine at large members, targets/measures and timeline. Team members include: Cathy Conklin, Tom Frey, Dave Briggs, Tom Bloodgood, David Jackson, Mike Swan, Robert Zandri, Jeff Green and Cindy Knox.

The booklet guiding taxpayers in grieving their assessment will be distributed to the regional offices. Distribution from the regional office will be the responsibility of local officials. The form itself and instructions is four pages and can be downloaded from the ORPS Web Site.

While the focus has been on the taxpayer complaint booklet, there was much discussion around the management, development and governance structure for forms. In response to many suggestions etc, the group decided to form a committee that will be led by Tom Bellard and two representatives from each organization. ORPS business units that have responsibilities for forms/manuals include Jim Dunne, PIO, Training, Legal, LIS, Program areas and representatives from these units will be part of the process.

Valeria Coggin noted wording in the "How Estimates of Market Value are Determined for Residential Properties" publication that should be changed. Geoff Gloak reviewed the publication and made changes to the wording.

Action Item (2004 #6) -ORPS will make taxpayer Complaint Booklets and forms available at the regional offices.

Action Item (2004 #7) -Forms management committee. The committee will consist of two members from each community. They will meet before next RPTAC meeting. (Tom Bellard)

-Because of illness, the prepared materials were not discussed. There was some discussion with Dennis Jersey regarding PEGS, E-Government Guidance Team, ISOT, RPS Governance, change control board and other internal technology initiatives. This topic needs more discussion and clarification of roles in June.

      • Technology Issues 
      • Complaint Booklet (Tom Bellard) 

Next meeting:
Date: June 24th - 25th, 2004
Location: NYS DOT Training and Conference Center
328 State Street, Schenectady, NY 12305

Updated: