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Department of Taxation and Finance

Real Property Tax Administration Committee

Wednesday and Thursday, June 22 & 23, 2005
Board Room, 16 Sheridan Avenue, Albany NY 12210

Facilitator: Tom Rutnik, Dave Leichenauer
Recorders: Janice Heeran
Assessors:Peter Galarneau (Alt), Tom Frey, Curt Schoeberl, J. Todd Wiley, Rick Hubner, Patrick Duffy
County Directors:Valeria Coggin, Caryn Kolts, John McCarey, Kathy Myers, Mike Swan, Bill Quick
ORPS: Tom Griffen, Tom Bellard, Bruce Sauter, Rich Sinnott, Bob Gawrelski (Alt), and JoAnn Whalen
Others: Geoff Gloak, Paul Szwedo, Dennis Jersey, Jim O'Keeffe, Bill Godell, Tim Maher, Jeff Jordan, Steve Harrison, Robert Zandri, Kim Manley, Joe Gerberg, Tom Pinto, Paul Miller, Jim Dunne, Peggy Jenkins, Pat Frey

Get Organized/What's New?

Minutes were approved with no changes. RPS Fees were added to the meeting agenda. A change to the September meeting date was proposed.

  1. E-Government Survey (Tom Rutnik)
  2. Solutions Center (Paul Szwedo)
  3. RPTAC Sub-committees - (Tim Maher, Jeff Jordan)
  4. Knowledge Sharing (Paul Szwedo, Girk Cakmak)

    Girk Cakmak used PowerPoint to present the Knowledge Sharing survey results along with his findings and interpretations of the results. Girk stated that survey results indicate that the users are well educated and versed in using other means of technology ( e:mail, bulletin boards, the Internet, RPS, etc.), so why don't they use the Web board? He went on to say that the groups having high importance coupled with a high level of influence, are the people that should being championing the efforts. (County RPTS Directors, County RPTS staff, Municipal Assessors, and Municipal Assessors' staff.) Girk described the differences between information and knowledge. Knowledge is rooted in actions, experience, and involvement in specific context. One of the main thrusts to his presentation was to put more effort into communicating to the end users.

    The following are recommended for a better implementation:

    • Narrow the Scope to Creating Information and Document Repository (Explicit Knowledge in the Sharing and Transfer)
    • Communicate, Communicate, Communicate (Majority of end users did not even know the web forum existed)
    • Get end users input (It is likely that the end users will take ownership and likely to use)
    • Prepare a prototype (This way what you are working on will be clearer - No surprises at the end)
    • Promote the potential benefits of the Web Forum (Current perception is working against the potential benefits)
    • Try to recognize and award sharing (So that others will want to use the Web Forum)
    • Use multiple channels to promote the site (Involve influencer stakeholders to do that)
    • Focus on user needs (They will determine the success or failure of the next round as well)
    • Ensure security and address liability issues (This will increase the likelihood of use)
    • Identify who has the knowledge (Focusing on this group will help sharing)

    2005 RPTAC Action Item #15: Paul Szwedo, JoAnn Whalen, Valeria Coggin and Patrick Duffy get together again to discuss the results of the Knowledge sharing survey and determine next steps.

    This presentation will be available to view on the RPTAC web board and the ORPS Website under 'Presentations'.

    2nd Day  

At the June 2004 meeting RPTAC members took part in an exercise to explore ways to improve communication within the assessment community concentrating on information shared between Assessors, County Directors and ORPS. Paul Szwedo had a handout that reviewed the issues identified as critical. He looked to clarify issues that had not been addressed at subsequent RPTAC meetings.

The following is a recap of the unresolved issues:
To Assessors - Legal Rules and Regulations

To County Directors - Address verification for local officials

Paul also addressed comments concerning the ORPS web site from the September 2004 RPTAC meeting during the E-Government Survey discussion: The following gaps were clarified:

  • Where to find conference presentations - Conference presentations are posted to the ORPS web site
  • Want to know what is new on the ORPS web site - What's new link at top of home page
  • How to find e-mail addresses for ORPS employees - phone numbers can be found in MuniPro (Search for Official's or Company's name)

The following concerns were addressed by the results of the E-Government Survey results:

  • Have a portal/home page for assessors (not 2 sites, secure and public). Portals are part of the future vision - Q13e shows that only 24% feel that is important, 50% were neutral
  • Information can be hard to find - 76% say they can easily find information on the site. (Improvements are planned, a new search tool will be implemented shortly)

2005 RPTAC Action Item #16: Tom Frey will report back to RPTAC on status of Bank Code modernization efforts.  

The team discussed the steps needed to institute the commercial trending analysis done for the Ulster County Pilot project statewide. Bob Gawrelski detailed two approaches. The first approach is to have local assessment officials gather commercial market data (leases) and do analysis work on the data. They would then bring the data and analysis to ORPS as part of the PDC process. The second approach is to have more ORPS involvement in the coordination and gathering of the commercial market data. Criteria would need to be developed to determine when this would be effective. It was determined that the first approach is the most feasible. Bob Gawrelski noted that he planed to work with the assessors before and at the Assessors' Association conference this approach.

The following suggestions were made during the discussion:

  1. ORPS mine the data warehouse for this type of commercial market data.
  2. ORPS create a capitalization rate history and publish the information on the ORPS web site.  

 Boeckh, our previous supplier of cost indices, is now owned by Marshall & Swift. We are currently operating on a year-to-year contract with Marshall & Swift. The concern is that Marshall & Swift uses somewhat different variables and categories to develop their indices. In the past, we were able to use in-house modifiers to make the Boeckh data compatible with our valuation system. A decision needs to be made on which direction ORPS wants to proceed. Should we change our data/categories to convert solely to the Marshall & Swift system or should we develop a new set of in-house modifiers for the Marshall & Swift data? ORPS staff is actively working with Marshall & Swift to draft a new proposal. We hope to have the proposal finalized by the fall. At that time, it will be determined if the cost can be incorporated into the ORPS budget.

Paul and Joe distributed a list of RPT related bills that had passed both Houses as of 6/23/05, and discussed some of the more significant items included on that list. Much of the discussion of this list focused on the four ORPS proposals.

  1. ORPS #1R-05 - Coordinated Assessment Program Incentive - adds $5 per parcel for new CAPs on 2006-08 rolls
  2. ORPS #2-05 - Special Franchise Assessment Procedure revisions, State to provide full values
  3. ORPS #4-05 - STaR Income Verification Program, Postcard Notification revisions
  4. ORPS #6R-05 - Small Claims Assessment Review Program update, Increases ceiling for unrestricted relief

There was also discussion of some other bills of interest that had not yet passed both Houses, but appeared to be headed for legislative approval in the last day of the ordinary session. Most of the discussion of these matters focused upon the bill (S.5720-a) that would allow any town in Fulton County to re-file a tentative roll up until the end of July. (P.S. That Fulton Co. bill did subsequently pass both Houses, and was signed by the Governor on 7/12/05 as Chapter 177 of the Laws of 2005.)

At the March RPTAC meeting the Assessment Notification Team was formed to propose ways to modernize disclosure and impact notices. It was noted that the annual assessment process has evolved, but the statutes have not. Geoff Gloak reviewed a packet of information pertaining to this topic. The packet included:

  • Existing Law Sections (RPTL 510 and 511)
  • Assessment Notification Team Charter
  • Assessment Notification Team initial report
  • Proposed scenarios for assessment notification

The team met on June 2nd to develop their tentative proposals. They developed three notices that would be available for use by assessors:

  • Tax dollar comparison (similar to what is currently used)
  • Percentage change in tax liability (as provided for in Section 511,2(b))
  • Assessment Increase Notice (similar to what is currently used)

In most cases, the assessor would have the option of using any of the 3 notices and would send the notice(s) out between 120 days prior to tentative roll date (January 1 for municipalities using the standard dates) and 10 days prior to Grievance Day.

The exception to this timeframe would be in municipalities conducting reassessments where:

  • The most recent reassessment was more than 3 years ago; OR
  • The level of assessment is changing by more than 25% (comparing last year's final equalization rate to this year's level of assessment (LOA)).

In these cases, the tax dollar comparison notice (option 1) or the percent change in tax liability notice (option 2) would be required and must be sent at least 60 days prior to tentative roll date.

If a municipality sends its notices prior to tentative roll date, a post-tentative roll notice would be required to be sent between tentative roll date and ten days prior to grievance day to taxpayers whose assessments have changed following the first notice (as provided for in Section 511,4).

In order to demonstrate to the Legislature that this proposal is indeed intended to benefit taxpayers, two additional "taxpayer-friendly" measures would be proposed as part of the legislation. The point would be made that these are in keeping with the intent of the Taxpayers' Bill of Rights: 

  1. LOA would be required to be included in the legal notices announcing availability of the tentative assessment roll
  2. LOA and Market Value would be added to notices in municipalities where the LOA is not 100.  

There was extensive discussion concerning the inclusion of the LOA and market value on the notices. It was decided to table that discussion until the September RPTAC meeting. The team will take the comments from RPTAC into consideration at their next meeting (June 28th). In September the team will have their final proposals for the notices. 

Tim Maher reported on the progress of the RP-5217 Optical Character Recognition (OCR) scanning project being undertaken by the data management unit. The scope of the project is to scan the RP-5217 and capture the data into an electronic file. Warren County has been chosen to be the pilot county. The project is slated to begin on September 1st, 2005.

A number of questions were raised as to the short and long term implications of the project. Tim noted that an evaluation of the pilot project would occur and the results reported back to RPTAC.

Sales Processing Sub-Team - Tim Maher reported on the activities of the newly formed Sales Processing sub-team. The team met on June 13, 2005 and discussed the following topics

  1. Review the RP-5217 form and identify items on the form that are needed by assessors, County Clerks, County Directors and ORPS.
  2. Review the real property transfer process for Onondaga County detailing the steps taken by all involved parties.
  3. Discuss the Warren County OCR pilot project.
  4. Communication / Information Sharing (Paul Szwedo)
  5. Non-Residential Valuation (B. Gawrelski, C. Schoeberl, T. Wiley)
  6. Cost Valuation (Jim Dunne)
  7. Legislation (Paul Miller, Joe Gerberg)
  8. Assessment Notification Team
  9. Real Property Transfers


At the March RPTAC meeting it was decided that the deadline for the E-Government Survey would be extended. County Directors were asked to follow-up with non-participating counties and municipalities via the County Director regional coordinators. The deadline for participation had been extended to April 29th.

The purpose of the survey was to determine the capacity of assessment officials to use the Internet and to understand how they use ORPS web site.

 RPTAC members reviewed the survey results. The following are some selected responses:

  • 57% of municipalities responded (554 of 980)
  • 77% of counties responded (44 of 57)
  • 83% have Internet connection in their municipalities assessment office
  • 84% have Internet connection at home
  • 93% of the respondents with Internet connection access the Internet at least once a week
  • 26% of respondents use Dial-up
  • 67% of respondents have either DSL, Cable, OC or T1 connection (high speed)
  • 82% of respondents refer taxpayers to the ORPS web site The group discussed contacting the counties that did not respond, or had a low response rate. Some felt this was important, while others felt that they had two chances and further contact would be fruitless. It was decided that the County Directors would follow-up with those counties

2005 RPTAC Action Item #11 - Caryn Kolts will work with County Director regional coordinators to contact the 13 counties that had no responses and the counties with a low response rate.

2005 RPTAC Action Item #12 - Tom Griffen will contact Association of Towns (AOT) and New York Conference of Mayors (NYCOM) to determine if they have a list of assessor e-mail addresses.

ORPS Web Site - RPTAC members felt that the ORPS web site has a tremendous amount of information useful to assessment officials. It was suggested that ORPS periodically "push" out e-mails to assessment officials telling them about new additions to the site and highlighting different areas of the site.

2005 RPTAC Action Item #13 - The ORPS Internet Unit will develop an electronic newsletter informing the assessment community of new content as well as highlights of existing content.

Bill Godell provided statistics for hits on the ORPS web site showing the top 5 areas for 2004 and 2005. Also, it was suggested that ORPS reach out to new assessment officials educating them as to the content on the ORPS web site. It was suggested that an online tutorial could accomplish this.

No decision was made as to how the survey results would be shared with the Assessment Community. 

Paul Szwedo made a presentation on RPS support. He discussed the purpose of the team and their objectives. Paul mentioned improvements that have been made and the available support resources that are now in place. The presentation included using the Internet to enter Web Access, a review of the main menu screen and a tour of the knowledge database. (Knowledge Base, Browse Index, Search Feature, Search Results, and RPS FAQ's) Paul then completed an "incident report" on-line.

The rollout schedule for training is:
May 24 - South ( Newburgh & Melville )
June 23 - North ( Albany & Saranac Lake )
July 14 - Central & West ( Syracuse & Batavia ) 

Equalization Project Team - Tim Maher reported that the RPTAC Equalization Project Team met twice since the last RPTAC meeting. The team reviewed the 2005 PDC cycle and made recommendations for the 2006 cycle. The recommendations include moving certain tasks earlier in the cycle. A sub-group of the team (Tom Pinto, Edye McCarthy and Barry Miller) has developed a draft PDC guidebook. The final version of the guidebook is due August 1st and a version will put on the ORPS Internet site. It was stressed that PDC is a process and not a one day event. The team is also developing a PDC course to be given at the fall Assessors' Association conference. PDC will also be a topic at the County Director Conference. Tim mentioned that the Ulster County project and vacant and commercial trending would be topics for the September meeting.

Equalization Project Team Membership - The team decided that they are comfortable with the current make-up of the team with representation being 6 assessors, 4 County Directors and 4 ORPS members. The team did not feel that limiting membership would help the team achieve their goals.

Equalization Rates - Tim Maher reported that tentative rates made for September school bills will be final by the end of July. He also reported that ORPS agreed with the stated LOA of 84% of municipalities. That was an increase over last year.

Valuation Issues Team - Jeff Jordan reported that the Valuation Issues Team met on April 13th. The team made some modification to the team charter recognizing the changes to the ORPS representatives on the team. At the meeting the team discussed the ramifications of the Ulster County pilot project; John Bonanno reviewed the Saratoga County (GAR) commercial valuation project and Mark Twentyman discussed agricultural appraisals.

Jeff noted that the team plans to meet at least three times per year and that the next meeting would be in the late summer. He also noted that he will be speaking at the County Directors conference in August and a 3 hour Commercial Trending course will be given at the fall Assessors' Association Conference.

2005 RPTAC Action Item #14: The Valuation Issues Team will discuss models for doing farm valuation.

2005 RPTAC Meeting Schedule
September 28 & 29 (Wednesday & Thursday, Clarion Hotel, Colonie NY)
December 8 & 9 (Thursday & Friday)