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EQUALIZATION PROJECT TEAM

Real Property Tax Administration Committee Meeting
Thursday and Friday, December 9 and 10, 2004
Board Room, 16 Sheridan Avenue, Albany, NY  12210

Facilitator:      Tom Rutnik
Recorder:       Janice Heeran

Assessors:     Cathy Conklin, Tom Frey, Curt Schoeberl, J. Todd Wiley, Rick Hubner, Patrick Duffy

County
Directors:       Valeria Coggin, Caryn Kolts, Joseph Maciejewski, John McCarey, Jim Gonyo (Alt), Mike Swan

ORPS:            Tom Griffen, Tom Bellard, Bruce Sauter, Rich Sinnott, John Wolham, and JoAnn Whalen,

Others:           Geoff Gloak, Paul Szwedo, Dennis Jersey, Dick Harris, Jim O'Keeffe, Bill Godell, Tim Maher, Jeff Jordan Steve Harrison, Robert Zandri, Steve King, Colleen Benson, Kim Manley, Joe Gerberg, Dawn Farrar, Sue Otis, Chris Fusco, William Quick

Guests:          Lori Milne, George King, and Sharon Edick

Get Organized / What's New

Minutes were approved with minor changes.  Comments on minutes, assessor members of RPTAC are named by the president of the Assessor's Association.  No changes were made to the meeting agenda.

Membership - Two new RPTAC members representing Assessor's were introduced: William Quick (Town of Freemont, Sullivan County - Alternate) and Curt Schoeberl (Town of Shawangunk, Ulster County).

A.  Communication Issues (Information Sharing) - Brainstorm characteristics of an ideal "Compile Sales" process - Tim Maher, Tom Rutnik

Background: This topic is a continuation of the Communication Issues (Information Sharing) topic first discussed at the June 2004 RPTAC meeting.  Three lists were created of information that flows to the following groups: Assessors, County Directors and ORPS.  At the September 2004 RPTAC meeting, members were asked to rank the five most critical and five most problematic items from each list.  The following is a review for each group: 

 

Assessors

County Directors

ORPS

1

5217's Quarterly reports

LOA Analysis

Sales Corrections

2

Rates (Tentative and Final)

RP-5217 forms

Sales  RP-5217 forms

3

Special franchise (Oil and Gas)

"CC" copies of information sent to Assessors

Final Assessment Rolls

4

Legislation Rules & Regulations

RPTAC Minutes

Assessor Reports

5

RAR's / Bank Codes

RPS Fees

Tentative Assessment rolls

Two of the types of information (Sales Processing and Bank Codes) identified as critical are on the agenda for discussion.

Sales Processing Best Practices:  In preparation for the meeting RPTAC members were asked to identify local "Best Practices" involving sales processing.  Two instances were identified:

  • - Receipt of deed information electronically from County Clerk
  • - Scanned deeds on-line for assessors

Brainstorm characteristics of ideal "Compile Sales" process:  Tom Rutnik and Tim Maher facilitated a brainstorming session to identify characteristics of an ideal "Compile Sales" process.  A list of 58 characteristics was generated (See Schedule A).  RPTAC decided to form a sub team to address the compile sales process. 

The following is a recap of the team tasks, membership and initial meeting.

Sub-Team Tasks:

  • Ø Create team charter and team name at 1st meeting'
  • Ø Group / combine lists
  • Ø Identify barriers to ideal characteristics
  • Ø Evaluate prior and current efforts to automate sales processing
  • SalesNet
  • Bar-coding
  • Scanning
  • Ø Stakeholder identification and outreach
  • Ø Outreach to OCA / Bar Association
  • Ø Explore short-term and long-term solutions

Team Information:

  • Ø Membership from each group, Assessor, County Director and ORPS
  • Ø Members should be from diverse regions
  • Ø Members from diverse municipal types
  • Ø By 12/31/2004 send member names to Tom Rutnik, posted to RPTAC web board

Meetings:

  • Ø Meet in January/February
  • Ø Location of meeting - 1st meeting to be in Syracuse, subsequent meeting locations to be determined by team
  • Ø Possible workshop (2 days) in future

2004 RPTAC Action Item #23: Caryn Kolts (County Directors), Todd Wiley (Assessors) and ORPS will provide 3 names for membership on a Sales Processing Sub-Team by 12/31/04.

B.  Equalization / PDC - Bob Gawrelski, Tim Maher

PDC:  Bob Gawrelski reviewed a handout of the 2005 schedule of events for communication and collaboration between State and local governments.  The purpose of the effort is to analyze the market place and condition of assessments for the purpose of preparing for 2005 assessment rolls and equalization rates.  It was noted that the CRM and local officials might adjust the schedule to better meet local government needs.

Bob noted that most of the PDC efforts should be completed by the end of the year, but that there would be some odds and ends to be completed in January and February.  This is a big improvement over last year.

Bob also reviewed a spreadsheet showing the status of the PDC improvement plan goals.  The spreadsheet was broken down by region.  The goals included: sharing status of sales transmissions & corrections, inventory data, market area maps, lists of 2005 FVM appraisals; localities providing analysis and having multiple contacts and/or meetings.

The consensus was that improvements have been made to the PDC process.  It was noted that some assessors did not realize that some of there interactions were actually part of the PDC process.  It was suggested that communications be improved to make the Assessor aware when an activity is PDC related.

Some members felt that changes need to be made in the training curriculum to include the PDC process.  Cathy Conklin noted that LOA analysis has been added to the training program.

Equalization Sub Committee - Tim Maher reported the following membership changes: Val Martins (Assessor - Town of Manlius) has retired; Curt Schoeberl and Tom Pinto have been added to the team.  The committee plans to do a thorough review of the PDC process at the February team meeting.  It was noted that people who participated in the PDC planning meetings should be invited to attend the February review meeting.

Draft procedures for 2005 are on the ORPS web site.  Comments need to be submitted to ORPS by 1/25/2005. 

Tim noted that in 82% of municipalities the LOA declared by the assessor was confirmed as the equalization rate.  That is jump from last year.

The equalization sub committee would like to amend their charter to include a review of the process for developing 2005 equalization rate trends for the commercial and vacant property classes.  The team will recommend improvements for developing trends for 2006 equalization rates.  It was noted that team membership might expand temporarily.

2004 RPTAC Action Item #24:  The Equalization sub committee will invite the group that helped develop the 2005 PDC schedule to the sub committee meeting on February 16, 2005.  At that meeting they will review the 2005 PDC schedule and develop a PDC schedule for 2006 equalization rates. 

2004 RPTAC Action Item #25:  The scope of the Equalization sub-committee will be expanded to include commercial and vacant trending.  Also, the membership of the team may be increased.

C.  Income Limits for Enhanced STAR - Tim Maher

At the September RPTAC meeting it was decided to take the income limit dollar amount off the "Application for School Tax Relief (STAR) Exemption" form.  Between meetings some members felt that the issue should be revisited.  After much discussion it was decided to take dollar amount off the form and leave a blank line that can be filled in with appropriate amount.  This would allow the form to be used over multiple years.  Tim Maher, in conjunction with the forms management committee, will facilitate the draft of a modified "Application for School Tax Relief (STAR) Exemption" form and share with RPTAC.

2nd Day

D.  Enriched on-line E-Government - Paul Szwedo, Dick Harris, Rick Hubner

Proposed ORPS Vision for Enriched On-line E-Government:  Paul Szwedo answered questions concerning the "ORPS Proposed Vision for Enriched E-Government".  RPTAC Members had been sent the vision in preparation for the "user requirements for enriched on-line E-government" discussion and expose them to ORPS' vision.  The vision includes the following:

  • - Integration of Key Suppliers into Technology Governance
  • - Expanded Customer-Driven Focus
  • - Integration of State and Local Databases and Applications
  • - Customizable Single Sign-on Work Benches
  • - GIS Interfaces
  • - Enhanced Problem Solving Analysis Tools

Members asked how far the vision goes within government.  In response Paul reviewed the stakeholder groups that are members of ISOT Team.

Joe Maciejewski reported that Erie County has been interviewed by CTG as part of the outreach effort to identify the use of parcel level data.

User Requirements for enriched on-line E-Government - Dick Harris gave a presentation on how to determine users' needs for an enriched on-line E-Government.  He reviewed the following:

  • - User requirements identification methods
  • - Sources for Stakeholder data
  • - Subjects of Study
  • - Data Collection methods
  • - How to select the appropriate data collection method

Local Capacity Survey - Rick Hubner handed out a draft survey with a twofold purpose.  The survey is aimed at determining the capability of assessment officials to conduct E-Government and also to measure the current use of various parts of the ORPS web site.  It was decided that a group would revise the survey and distribute through the County Directors.

2004 RPTAC Action Item #26: A group (Rick Hubner, Joe Maciejewski, Bruce Sauter and Dennis Jersey) was formed to revise the survey drafted by Rick Hubner.  The survey will be distributed through county directors and tallied at the county level.  Results will then be sent to Tom Rutnik to assemble statewide totals to be shared with RPTAC members.

E.   RP-5217 Selling Price Discrepancies - Jim O'Keeffe

Jim O'Keeffe and Rich Sinnott reviewed three examples where RP-5217's had been filed with possibly fraudulent selling price discrepancies.  Jim also discussed ORPS outreach to Tax & Finance to discuss their involvement in investigating these instances.  Jim cautioned that Tax & Finance would only pursue if they felt the dollar amounts were worth expending the resources to investigate.  It is up to local governments to pursue further action.  ORPS will be available as a resource.

F. Communication Issues (Information Sharing) - Bank Codes

Background: The discussion on bank codes is a continuation of the communication Issues (information Sharing) topic first discussed at the June RPTAC meeting (see topic A.).  Bank codes and tax billing maintenance was identified as both critical and problematic.  The purpose of the discussion was to review the existing bank code update process and to discuss potential solutions and future direction.

Outreach: RPTAC reached out to the following stakeholder groups: Tax Collectors (Lori Milne - Tax Collector, Town of Skaneateles in Onondaga County) and Tax Service Organizations (George King of First American, the largest tax service organization operating in NYS) and asked them to participate in our discussion.  Also, Dawn Farrar (RPS Unit, ORPS) was asked to participate.

Problem Statement: Maintenance of bank codes on assessment records is a time consuming, labor intensive process for assessment officials, tax collecting officials, lending institutions and tax service organizations.

Bank Code Processes: 

The following processes involving bank codes were reviewed and inefficiencies were identified:

  • - Designation to receive tax bill relative to the real property, which is subject to mortgage
  • - Change in status of tax escrow accounts
  • - Matching of records before billing cycles (manual and automated)
  • - Bank code reference table maintenance

The following issues were noted:

  • - Bank codes are not uniform statewide
  • - Some improvements have been made regarding the automation of updates of bank codes. This effort has been lead by First American in conjunction with the Tax Collectors / Tax Receivers
  • - Bank mergers and a boom in refinancing have led to a larger volume of changes
  • - Notification of changes to bank codes are sometimes sent to multiple levels of government for the same parcel

Also, the group reviewed prior RPTAC discussions of bank codes (1998, 1999 and 2002).  These discussions had ended without significant change to the processes.  No one was willing to lead the effort.  Steve Harrison added that the 953 processes were added in 1989 at the request of the consumer protection board to protect homeowners from unscrupulous mortgage lenders.

The NYS Assessors Association is working with legislative staff, Tony Cantore, to explore ways to remove themselves from the bank code update process.  County Directors were also united in their desire to be removed from the bank code process.

The group participated in a brainstorming session to identify the "ideal bank code process" (See Schedule B).

Identify the tax collector from Pat Duffy's town and how she and Patrick have worked out the process.

Next Steps: RPTAC decided that a group should be formed with representatives from the Tax Collectors, Assessors and County Directors to study the bank code processes and how it can be made more efficient. 

2004 RPTAC Action Item #27: Heads of the following associations: County Directors, Assessors and Tax Collectors will form a group to study the bank code processes and how they can be made more efficient.  Meeting expected in February / March timeframe.

2005 RPTAC Meeting Schedule:

March 17 &18
June 23 & 24           
September 22 & 23
December 8 & 9

Note: Meeting dates are subject to change.  All 2005 RPTAC meetings are scheduled to be held at ORPS (16 Sheridan Avenue, Albany NY)

Schedule A

Characteristics of ideal "Compile Sales" Process

1.         Make RP5217 as last page of deed. 
2.         Should not be a multi-part form.
3.         Make 5217 as the 1st page! (First page is the title page)
4.         Electronically at county clerk- eliminate duplication TP-584 - RP5217
5.         Authorize electronic signatures - need legislation
6.         Automate TP-584
7.         Paperless
8.         ORPS reimbursement to Clerk instead of County Director for creating database
9.         Live on-line corrections
10.       Ability to sort sales anyway the user wants (ex. System would have separate folders for each category.
11.       Partner with private vendor - Law Packages
12.       Automatic correction if person enters form incorrectly
13.       Take information from assessment roll.
14.       Financial incentives for filing at the attorney's office.
15.       Enter data once
16.       Financial incentive for filing electronically
17.       Eliminate redundancy throughout process
18.       Automatically compute sale ratios, trends, RARs - works with other applications
19.       Electronically generated verification letter with inventory and terms of sale
20.       Automatically calculate filing fee - linked to assessment roll
21.       Connection to tax mapping
22.       Integrate with other systems
23.       Connection to prior roll
24.       Verification of information at time filed - can't file until data is verified
25.       Tie to GIS for editing - deed description to tax map
26.       System would read description of property and identify if more than one parcel
27.       Collect email address for parties to sale
28.       System should be linked to prior assessment roll data
29.       Electronic STAR exemption applications
30.       As soon as filed, send the buyer appropriate information for STAR exemption
31.       Electronic voter registration
32.       Don't send RP 5217s to ORPS
33.       Tie in to mortgage filing - see mortgage amount
34.       Eliminate all paper (same as number 7)
35.       Coordination with filed sub-division maps and deeds
36.       Cross populate RP584 and RP5217
37.       Electronic filing of sub-division maps
38.       Put a check box on form for survey - goes to tax mapping
39.       Compatible (standardization) with all systems (non-RPS)
40.       Cross check to determine if outstanding liens on property (search for back taxes, liens)
41.       Incorporate village assessments, where village is assessing unit
42.       Require buyer to file a survey with par parcel sale
43.       File map numbers included (sub-division map)
44.       Universal access to sales data, stakeholder access to all data
45.       Data changes stay in sync
46.       Centralized database - one database
47.       Stops filing of deeds in illegal sub-divisions
48.       All corrections made with 30 days of Recording
49.       County Clerk and RPTS on same page
50.       All related data sent along with RP-5217 (Owner not matching, ex. A sale as a result of an estate, probate, a name change, a/k/a)
51.       Ownership information kept up to date on roll file
52.       Verified seller at time of sale (based on match to assessment roll), if not, add electronic addendum to deed
53.       Property transfer possibly subject to 520 and Ag penalty
54.       County clerk should be involved in design of system
55.       Hierarchy for editing sales data
56.       Sales data linked to inventory data
57.       RP-5217 data entry with "hard edits" can't pass until you answer
58.       Stakeholder access to all data

Schedule B

Characteristics of Bank Code Update Process (to ensure tax bills get to correct individual)

1.         Create a Bank Code List
2.         OPRS maintains statewide bank codes list
3.         TSO's coordinate statewide
4.         Compatible w/RPS and tax collection software
5.         Not the responsibility of the TSO
6.         Cost to those getting benefit
7.         Out of assessors' hands, receivers maintain records
8.         Tax collector maintain codes on file
9.         Put on ORPS' workbench
10.       Need Legislative changes
11.       Repeal Section 9 of 953
12.       Electronic file/no paper - Opinion of Counsel
                           a.  Option
13.       Standardize file formats
14.       Make all banks send electronic file (not all have computer access)
15.       No 953s filed when it's within the same bank
16.       Compatible with non-RPS Systems
17.       Review of why we are where we are
18.       No bank codes, just S-B-L  
19.       RPS have something for TSO's
20.       Responsibility of the taxpayer
21.       Take the government out of the picture

Updated: