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Department of Taxation and Finance

Real Property Tax Administration Committee

MINUTES
Thursday and Friday September 23 & 24, 2004
Board Room, 16 Sheridan Avenue, Albany NY 12210

Facilitator: Tom Rutnik
Recorders: Angela DiMura and Janice Heeran
Assessors:Cathy Conklin, Tom Frey, Nick Longo, J. Todd Wiley, Peter Galerneau, Rick Hubner, Patrick Duffy (Alt.)
County Directors:Valeria Coggin, Caryn Kolts, Joseph Maciejewski, John McCarey, Kathleen Myers (Alt.), Richard Sheflin
ORPS: Tom Griffen, Tom Bellard, Bruce Sauter, Rich Sinnott, John Wolham, and JoAnn Whalen
Others: Geoff Gloak, Paul Szwedo, Dennis Jersey, Dick Harris, Don Card, Jim O'Keeffe, Jeff Bartholomew, Bill Godell, Tim Maher, Jeff Jordan Steve Harrison, Dave Williams, Danny Lancor, Paul Miller, Robert Zandri, Steve King, Linda Martinelli, John Bonano and Chuck Aviza,Sue Otis

Get Organized What's New?

Minutes were approved with minor changes. Comments on minutes, 1st page, vice-president was omitted.

Membership Two new RPTAC members representing County Directors were introduced: Kathleen Myers, Dutchess County (Alternate) and John McCarey, Orange County. Also, it was the last RPTAC meeting for Nick Longo (Assessor, Village of Kaiser). The incoming Assessor's Association president will select a new assessor member at the October conference.

Tom Rutnik noted a change in the agenda format. An emphasis has been put on the desired outcome for each topic. Also, a list of members for RPTAC and the active sub-committees was added on the back of the agenda.

Agenda change - A bill concerning eminent domain procedures was recently passed. Discussion of the bill was added for Friday morning.

    1.  

       

      1. Sales, RP5217 / Quarterly Sales Reports
        1. Timing of receipt of RP-5217's from County Clerk
        2. SalesNet - RPS link, duplication of effort
        3. Owner names in RPS after adding sale information  
        Needs a business process re-engineering. This will be a future RPTAC agenda item, close ties to PEGS initiative.

         

      2. Timing of Certifications for STAR Exemptions
        1. Timing for certification of STAR exemptions needed earlier (March/April)

        The law states that certifications for STAR exemptions need to be sent 20 days prior to the filing of the tentative roll. Tim Maher noted that notices would go out sooner.

          

      3. RPS Communications
        1. RPS Bugs and fixes need to be communicated faster
        2. Changes to RPS fees need to be communicated better

        These suggestions were passed on to RPS unit to be addressed. It should be noted that RPS fee changes are posted to the ORPS web site.

        2004 RPTAC Action Item #15: RPS Unit will investigate the following claims that RPS bugs and fixes need to be communicated faster and that changes to RPS fees need to be communicated better.

           

      4. Income Limits for Enhanced STAR
        1. Applications come before limits are known, Assessors want data sooner
        2. Remove dollar amount from application form

        ORPS will make an effort to send the income limits for enhanced STAR earlier. It had been the practice to wait until all had been sent from the prior year. Joe Gerberg stated that income limits would be taken off the form.

          

      5. Passwords / User Codes
        1. User codes and Passwords forgotten or expired for secure applications
        2. Sign-on is case sensitive

        Outside of ORPS control, ORPS uses OFT for authentication. Internet Unit will put notice on web site concerning case sensitivity.

        2004 RPTAC Action Item #16: ORPS will put a notice on the sign-in page for the secure Internet site reminding users that Passwords and User Codes must be used every 90 days or they expire. Also, that the sign-in is case sensitive.

         

        "To County Directors"
        Most Critical Problematic
        1.) LOA Analysis 1.) Bank code information
        2.) RP5217 forms 2.) RPS Fees
        3.) "CC" copies of information (sent to Assessors) 3.) Address verification for local officials
        4t.) RPTAC minutes
        4t.) RPS fees
      1. Bank Code updates
        1. Outdated paper driven process, not consistent statewide

        This is a future RPTAC agenda item, also being addressed by an assessors association committee.  

      2. RPS Fee increases
        1. Did not receive notification

        ORPS and RPS Unit will review  

      3. Notification of organizational changes within ORPS
        1. Assessment community wants to know who to contact.

        This will be reviewed by ORPS. Use "Who to Contact" link on ORPS web site.

         

        "To ORPS"
        Most Critical Problematic
        1.) Sales Corrections 1.) Sales - RP5217 forms
        2.) Sales - RP5217 forms 2. ) Sales Corrections
        3.) Final Assessment rolls 3.) How RPS data used by others.
        4.) Assessor reports 4.) Systematic analysis & LOA
        5.) Tentative assessment rolls
      "To Assessors"
      Most Critical Problematic
      1.) Sales - 5217's Quarterly reports 1.) Sales - 5217's Quarterly reports
      2.) Rates Tentative / Final 2.) Star Certifications
      3.) Special franchise oil & gas 3.) RPS communications
      4.) Legislation Rules & Regulations 4.) Income limits - Enhanced Star
      5t.) RAR's 5t.) Passwords / User codes
      5t.) Bank codes 5t.) Legal Rules & Regulations
         
    2. Sales, RP5217 / Quarterly Sales Reports
      1. Timing of receipt of RP-5217's from County Clerk
      2. SalesNet - RPS link, duplication of effort
      3. Old owner names in RPS after adding sale information (being investigated by RPS unit).

      Needs a business process re-engineering. This will be a future RPTAC agenda item, close ties to PEGS initiative.  

      1. Systematic Analysis / LOA
        1. ORPS not getting information / input from assessors

        Equalization sub-committee is addressing issue.  

      2. How RPS data is used by others
        1. Need to know other uses of RPS data within local government

        ORPS has a contact with the Center for Technology in Government (CTG) to collect this data in five counties within NYS. ORPS will share the results.  

      3. Part 4 of AAR
        1. By rule will accept electronically

        Assessors need to be notified that this option exists.

      1. Have a portal / home page for Assessors - not two sites (secure and public).
      2. Same concept for taxpayers - content specific to taxpayers.
      3. Volume of information on ORPS web site has grown. Lots of good information. Can be hard to navigate to find what you want, or know what is available.
      4. Share conference information -
      5. Assessment community would like a summary of changes / additions to ORPS web site pushed out to them via e-mail (Listserv) on a regular basis.
      6. ORPS web site is better than other similar sites in other states.
      7. Not sure how to find e-mail addresses of ORPS employees.
      • Add missing items
      • Rank of top 5 most critical items identified
      • Rank of top 5 items that cause most problems
      • List of potential business process improvement suggestions
    3. Communication Issues
    4. E-Govt/PEGS Update - Paul Szwedo
    5. Equalization - Tim Maher
    6. Valuation Issues - Chuck Aviza
    7. Forestry Valuation - Danny Lancor
    8. Increase Notices - Geoff Gloak
    9. Training Governance Group - Jeff Bartholomew

At the June 2004 meeting RPTAC members took part in an exercise to explore ways to improve communication within the assessment community concentrating on Assessors, County Directors and ORPS. The focus of the exercise was to identify the types of information, the method used to communicate and how to improve communication. An inventory of the information flow to each of the above groups was created and distributed to RPTAC members. Members were asked to review the lists with their constituents.

RPTAC members were asked to do the following for each list: 

It was noted that many communications on the "To Assessor" list should also be on the "To County Director" list. 

      Potential business process improvement suggestions for "To Assessor" list:

Potential business process improvement suggestions for "To County Director" list:

Potential business process improvement suggestions for "To ORPS" list:

RPTAC members were also asked to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the ORPS web site and list most desired content or applications. The following are a summary of the comments

ORPS Website Comments 

Paul Szwedo gave an overview of the E-Gov't Guidance Team (EGT) activities. The EGT has finalized their charter, discussed future initiatives and grant programs. Next meeting they will identify specific actions to be taken. The focus is broad; they want to explore the exchange of parcel information. The next meeting will be held December 9th.

Bruce Sauter discussed a grant program available to local governments from the New York State Archives' Local Government Records Management Improvement Fund (LGRMIF). These grants are intended to help local governments establish records management programs, develop new program components, improve existing programs or do a feasibility study as a project. He noted that the grants are approved 87% of the time. He felt that this is a great opportunity for everyone to share local parcel information and all would benefit. Bruce is willing to work with assessors/locals to pursue the grants. He also noted that under the proposal you could have an outside vendor do the work for you. The application has to be in by December 1, 2004. Funds cover expenditures that run from August 2005, to July 2006. Any activities/project started prior to August 2005, will not be covered. A presentation detailing this information was conducted at the County Director Conference held in August.

Tim Maher reported that final 2004 State equalization rates were established prior to school levy date for every city and town in a school district that levies taxes on September 1. The equalization rate is the same as the Level of Assessment (LOA) declared by the assessor for 82 percent of these municipalities. By comparison, in 2003 the LOA was confirmed as the equalization rate for 76 percent of cities and towns and in 2002 the LOA was confirmed for 64 percent of cities and towns. Tim reported that 25 rate complaints were filed this summer and the State Board changed the equalization rates for 13 of these cities and towns. In three cases the equalization rate was changed to the LOA stated on the assessment roll.

Tim distributed a copy of the Pre-decisional collaboration schedule for 2005 equalization rates. This schedule was developed by a group of ORPS staff, assessors and county directors. There was a brief discussion on the status of the initial meetings between local officials and CRMs to discuss 2005 equalization rates.

Tim reported that the RPTAC Equalization Subcommittee met on September 8 and is meeting again on November 17. Tim reported that the subcommittee has been reviewing the results of the 2004 equalization rates and has developed a framework for the 2005 equalization rate procedures. The procedures for 2005 rates will be similar to the procedures for 2004 rates. Tim said the subcommittee is working on developing methods to ensure that the market value estimates that are determined for municipalities with very few sales are accurate.

Tim also reported that several members of the subcommittee are concerned that recently they have seen RP-5217 forms for the sales of new homes that do not reflect the actual selling prices of the homes. It appears that in some cases the RP-5217 form only reflects a portion of the true selling price.

2004 RPTAC Action Item #17: An adhoc committee to address RP-5217 reporting irregularities was formed with a representative from ORPS, Assessors and County Directors. They will discuss the legal ramifications, and develop a strategy and come up with examples of fraud and share with RPTAC. The group will communicate before end of October. (Tom Griffen, Todd Wiley and John McCarey)

Also, it was noted that the STAR money will be available the end of October due to the late budget. Members of the assessment community expressed a desire to get the monies earlier in the year.

2nd Day

Boechkt / Marshall Swift - Chuck Aviza updated RPTAC members on the progress of cost valuation. He explained the two options being explored. The first option is to continue paying Marshall Swift to convert the cost data to a Boechkt format, which is very costly. The second option is to explore ways to take the Marshall/Swift data and do the Boechkt conversion in-house. ORPS will need permission from Division of Budget to get programmers and researchers. In either case, it will be a number of years before ORPS can make changes with the cost system. The eventual conversion will be a phased approach. RPTAC members asked for clarification of the phase in using the two systems wondering if there would be a problem. Chuck said there would be no interface problems.

Chuck noted that he had contacted Valuation Issues members and requested a teleconference to review info before presentation to RPTAC and only received one response. Caryn Kolts reviewed the list of members and asked that she be included in future e-mails to Valuation Issues sub-committee members.

Bruce Sauter was asked if there was any information from the IAAO conference on what other states are doing. Bruce stated that if you went to the vendor booth area, Marshall Swift was the only one represented. Indiana uses CLT and has switched to a market value approach.

Chuck will report back at the next RPTAC meeting, if we decide to move forward, phase in, to help us make our decision (we will contact Division of Budget).

Commercial Valuation Pilot Study - Chuck Aviza discussed a commercial valuation pilot study that ORPS has contracted with GAR Associates Inc. to conduct. He explained that the processes used by ORPS for commercial valuation have remained unchanged for over 20 years. ORPS must investigate existing best practices in order to improve the processes associated with commercial valuation work. The current processes include gathering, storage, maintenance analysis and documentation of information needed to value properties. The process relies too heavily on manual documentation and does not lend itself to automation and other technical advances. ORPS is looking at the commercial valuation pilot to determine the best way to get verified data and support valuation decisions at both the State and local levels.

The pilot project with GAR will involve several types of commercial properties (411's - apartments and 480's - downtown mixed use) within Saratoga County. It will include the identification of best practices in the appraisal process for those types of commercial properties. It includes training and mentoring of State and local staff in the collection, verification and analysis of commercial data.

At the conclusion of the project ORPS will prepare a report outlining the best practices identified and the experiences of the staff participating in the project. The results of the project may have a significant impact on both state and local equalization products and services. The goal is to incorporate enhancements derived from the pilot into the 2006 rate cycle. The timeframe for the report is November/December 2004. Chuck hopes to report out at next RPTAC meeting in December.

Some RPTAC members were excited about the project and were interested in the 'best practices'. Concern was expressed over communication around the commercial pilot project. Some assessment community members had the false impression that this had been approved by RPTAC. Also, some RPTAC members encouraged ORPS to look beyond this pilot for best practices in commercial valuation.

Jeff Jordan responded to a question asking if ORPS purchased data. He responded that OPRS uses several companies. A question was also asked if the assessors could access this data, Jeff said he didn't know, and it would be a decision for legal.

2004 RPTAC Action Item #19: Jeff Jordan will reissue information presented at County Director Association meeting concerning commercial valuation publications used by ORPS. Also, Jeff will look into sharing commercial valuation data with assessment community.

Forestry Valuation Methods - Danny Lancor updated RPTAC members on current forestry valuation methods used by ORPS. He stated that ORPS uses the mass appraisal method, and values for full market survey valued on an individual basis, ORPS also provides reassessment support by providing a guideline for stumpage value and per acre value.

RPS V4 - Forestry valuation is being incorporated into RPS4 and progressing on schedule. There has been no assessor involvement yet. Eventually ORPS will conduct some pilot projects with certain counties. No decisions have been made as to when the pilots would start and which counties would be involved.

Aerial Photography - ORPS obtained new aerial photography a number of years ago. Two years ago ORPS researched the cost of doing another set of aerial photographs. It was decided that the cost was prohibitive. ORPS now uses a software program called "GATEWAY". This package allows ORPS to evaluate digital ortho photographs from the Internet to determine roadways, major physical change such as blow downs and logging. Danny noted that physical inspections are very labor intensive and that ORPS uses DEC information when they can, but that ORPS data is frequently better.

A question was asked on how to challenge the county groupings used for surveys. Danny noted that any questions concerning County groupings should be made to the Saranac office. 

At the last RPTAC - Dorothy Martin proposed to add the market value to the change notice (510). It was decided to have the Reassessment Public Relations Advisory Group draft new versions for the change notice (510) and Assessment Disclosure Notice (511).

Geoff Gloak gave a review of recommendations from Reassessment Public Relations Advisory Group to RPS Change Control Board concerning the notices.

Change Notice (510) -Members agreed that if made mandatory a legislative change would be needed. Geoff presented a draft of the proposed 510 notice The assessor representation on RPTAC did not like the draft change notice and did not want ORPS to take any legislative action on this matter. After further discussion, it was decided to go back to the Reassessment Public Relations Advisory Group to look at alternatives. Assessors should provide feedback to that group.

Assessment Disclosure Notice (511) - Geoff provided a copy of the draft. There were no comments from RPTAC members. It was noted that the process to create the tax dollar amounts for the disclosure notice is difficult in RPS V4. RPS Governance is addressing this issue.

Valerie Coggin provided a copy of a disclosure notice used in Tompkins County with great success. Geoff Gloak asked the RPTAC members to share cover letters for the change notice to be used as examples of best practices. 

    1.  

      Legislation - Joe Gerberg

      Joe Gerberg spoke on a new bill, just signed into law. Chapter 450, also known as A.11167, generally seeks to ensure that property owners be notified of eminent domain hearings. Owners are to be identified for this purpose using "assessment records" as they exist in their "current form", with such information, as may be "obtained from and ascertained by the assessor." The new law specifically empowers ORPS to adopt rules and "take any other measures necessary to implement this act" on or before its effective date which is 120 days after enactment, or January 12th.

      Paul Miller handed out an updated status list of bills that have passed both Houses of the legislature.

      STAR Income Standard
      The group discussed the timing of the release of the STAR Income Standard each year. Assessment officials expressed a desire to receive the figures as soon as possible. Joe Gerberg explained that ORPS defers the announcement to avoid confusion among taxpayers in municipalities with different roll dates. Also, some members asked if ORPS would take the income limit dollar amount off the "Application for School Tax Relief (STAR) Exemption" form and the renewal form.

      2004 RPTAC Action Item #18: ORPS will take the income limit dollar amount off the "Application for School Tax Relief (STAR) Exemption" form and the renewal form. Also, ORPS will determine a way to disseminate the STAR Income Standard to assessors earlier. 

      Tim Maher distributed a map showing the various software systems the local governments are using to create assessment rolls. Over 90 percent of the cities and towns are either currently using RPS v4 or will be using RPS v4 for 2005 roll processing. Tim said that ORPS staff is working with the assessing units that are not using RPS v4 to submit assessment roll data and assessor's report data in a standard layout. Tim said they have had success working with several towns in Suffolk County. Tim said the agency realizes that in some cases creating files in the standard format may not be easy for the locality. Tim said he does not expect every municipality to submit files in the standard layout in 2005, but expects that within a few years all files will be submitted in the standard layout.

      A question was raised concerning ORPS' credit of $500 for non-users of RPS V4.

      2004 RPTAC Action Item #21: Dennis Jersey will investigate the 'credit' of $500 for non-users of RPS V4. 

       Rich Sinnott noted that The Court of Appeals granted a motion for leave to appeal made by the Town of Riverhead, in a case involving that Town's attempt to get the courts to hear its claim that the State Board should not have determined a special "segment" rate for the portion of the Town of Southampton that's in the Riverhead school district. The Appellate Division had previously held that Riverhead did not have "standing" to challenge the Board's determination of a rate for another town.

      Valeria Coggin complimented Paul Miller on his efforts to keep the assessment community updated on legislative activities. She noted an instance where she received e-mail at 10:49 PM for a bill passed at 10:46 PM. She also passed on a list of questions for the RPS unit concerning RPS V4.

      2004 RPTAC Action Item #22: Answer various questions from Valeria Coggin concerning RPS V4   

Jeff Bartholomew provided a quarterly status of assessment community training activities for the time period of July to September 2004. He distributed a handout showing the training attendance for the fiscal year and quarter showing the classes given, the class format and the attendance. He noted that the government reimbursement rates were revised as of 10/1/04 (Ulster's rates fell $6 for lodging, NYC fell dramatically, Cornell dollar amount went up). The training unit is gathering ideas for topics at the Association of Towns and Assessors' Association conferences coming up.

RPTAC members had questions concerning how the attendance figures were arrived at for various classes. Jeff Batholomew agreed to research and provide clarification.

2004 RPTAC Action Item #20: Jeff Bartholomew will research training attendance figures for the July to September time period and share findings with RPTAC members

Jeff stated that EDS and ORPS regional staff have been working to maintain current course materials. Revisions have been made to the "Data Collection R/F/V" and "Data Collection" courses based on course feedback. ORPS regional course content owners are making changes to the "Applied Level of Assessment" and "RPS Analysis and Valuation". Also, significant revisions to many courses are expected resulting from the change in valuation date. A new course under development called "Understanding the Sales Process" will debut at the assessors' fall conference.

The Training Governance Group continues to refine the proposed assessor and county director training program that is to be implemented in 2007. RPTAC members reviewed a handout of the proposed curriculum. Jeff went on to highlight and explain each section and what it would mean in time and commitment. It was suggested to drop the word "Fundamental". The program trims down the number of hours of commitment, but still covers all the training needed. It was noted that the Training Governance Group has three private sector members. Also, a list of teams working on various courses was reviewed. The teams have representation from assessors, county directors and ORPS. EDS is working with ORPS legal staff to help implement the new program.

A question was asked concerning the status of the on-line training software. Jeff stated that ORPS is drafting an RFP for bids to replace this software. The cost is approximately $80,000. The current software runs three classes.

A comment was made that assessment officials would like to be able to access training needs on line. Jeff responded this is being worked on, but did not have an exact timeframe. He also noted that the crediting tracking software, is done in-house using a FoxPro system.  

Non-RPS Vendors - Tim Maher

 RPTAC Meeting Schedule / Agenda topics:
December 9th and 10th, 2004 (at ORPS)

Bank Codes
Sales Reporting Process

Proposed 2005 RPTAC Meeting Schedule:
March 17 & 18 June 23 & 24 Sept. 22 & 23 Dec. 8 & 9

Updated: