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Department of Taxation and Finance

Real Property Tax Administration Committee

Wednesday and Thursday, September 28 & 29, 2005
The Clarion Hotel, 3 Watervliet Avenue Ext., Albany, NY 12210

Facilitator: Dave Leichenauer
Recorders: Janice Heeran
Assessors:Tom Frey, Rick Hubner, J. Todd Wiley, Patrick Duffy, William Quick and Cathy Conklin
County Directors:Valeria Coggin, Caryn Kolts, John McCarey, Michael Swan, Kathy Myers and Carol Holley
ORPS: Tom Griffen, JoAnn Whalen, Rich Sinnott, Dennis Jersey and John Wolham
Others: Geoff Gloak, Tim Maher, Jeff Jordan, Teresa Frank, Sue Otis, Jim O'Keeffe, Bob Gawrelski, Curt Schoeberl, Steve Harrison, Robert Zandri, Karen Barrett, Dick Harris and several new ORPS trainees

Get Organized/What's New?

Review of the June minutes showed that William Quick should be listed with the assessors not with the county directors. Minutes were then approved.

Dave welcomed the new committee members at the table - Carol Holley, Kathy Myers and William Quick. Note: Kathy and Bill had both served as alternates last cycle.

  1. Assessment Notification Team - Teresa Frank
  2. Current Issues
  3. E-Government Survey - Caryn Kolts, Rick Hubner and Tom Rutnik
  4. Knowledge Sharing - Valeria Coggin

    Valeria gave a historical review of the team's effort and commented on possible next steps. She talked about Girk Cakmak's analysis of the survey results and his comments on the group's progress to date. Girk suggested that we scale back on the number of participants for a pilot project. Identify counties that may already be knowledge sharing. Establish pilot projects with a small group to begin with. The sub-group is looking at counties that are using Listserv to communicate. Four counties could be targeted for the pilot effort. (Columbia, Erie, Saratoga and Ulster) The sub-group will work with counties to use Listserv for knowledge sharing. Valeria appealed to the RPTAC members to promote participation. RPTAC would like to see more counties using ListServ as a tool to communicate. The sub-group is planning to meet again to finalize their next steps.

    Action Item #23 - ORPS will work to create more county-wide Listservs to foster an environment for better communication. (Geoff Gloak)

    Day 2 


Prior to the meeting, a questionnaire was circulated to determine use and usages for the data warehouse (Parcel & Sales Inventory Data). There were four questions:

  • Do you use the data warehouse and how often?
  • How is the data being used?
  • Are there things that the data warehouse doesn't do or contain that you'd like to see?
  • Can you suggest Improvement Opportunities for the data warehouse?

At the meeting, flip charts were used to capture responses from RPTAC members. The information collected dealt with data issues, user issues and technology issues. Flexibility within the system, accuracy of the data, and a more user friendly environment for locals seemed to be the main points. (see the attached charts for more detail )

Action Item #24 - Take the flipcharts back to ORPS and have the E-Government Team review and comment. (JoAnn Whalen)

Action Item #25 - Poll the top ten local users and have them answer the data warehouse questionnaire. Work with CRMs to reach out to the top 10 local users and collect their responses. (Bob Gawrelski)

Action Item #26 - Post local user survey results and E-Government Team results on WebBoard. (Dave L.)

Action Item #27 - Assemble a group to identify Data Warehouse data fields that are useful to locals.(RPTAC)

Revisit this topic at the December RPTAC meeting. 


Tim presented the Timeline for STaR Administrative Aid Funding:

  1. ORPS and DOB agree on allocation - by October 7
  2. ORPS notifies each locality of aid payment amount - by October 20
  3. ORPS creates payment vouchers and sends vouchers to OSC - mid to late Oct.
  4. OSC mails checks to chief fiscal officers - November

Concerns were raised that the timing had not change from pervious years. Tim stated that since our state budget is currently being passed on time, he anticipates that the future timeframe for funding with change accordingly.


JoAnn and Dick introduced the 2005-2006 Real Property Tax Administration Technology Improvement Grant Program (RPTATIP) Detailed hand-outs, printed from the ORPS web-site, were shared with the committee. The hand-outs included a commonly-asked- questions section. Discussions included the purpose of the grant program, dollar amounts, eligibility and the timeframe.

The State Aid form was shared with RPTAC and there were no comments or concerns. A public hearing was held in August to receive comments and suggestions on rules to implement Chapter 139 of the Laws of 2005, which requires ORPS to train and certify New York City assessors. A preliminary draft of the rules has been sent to New York City. The basic course of training would be similar in length and content to the new course of training being developed by the Training Governance Team, with some changes to reflect the differences between the City's assessors and assessors outside the City. Since the statute does not provide for an interim certification program or a continuing education program, the rules do not provide for either.

Meeting Wrap-Up ORPS is planning to give 4 hours of education credit for attendance our Annual Reassessment Symposium in October. RPTAC members expressed the opinion that this is not the correct direction to go for education. It was also mentioned that ORPS is providing a "gourmet" lunch at the symposium. Plus, if traveling more than 50 miles participants are entitled to a hotel room paid for by ORPS. Members went on to say that commented that when attending RPTAC meetings, they or their county / muni has to pay all of their expenses. Members wanted to know who was involved in the approval process, expenses, mileage, etc. (Dave will check into this). If possible, RPTAC members would like other options for meeting places

Action Item #30 - Response to symposium concerns should be posted on WebBoard or Listserv.

Action Item #31 - ORPS will look into other options for meeting sites and report out on results.

Next meeting is scheduled for Dec 8th & 9th at the Clarion Hotel, 3 Watervliet Ave. Ext. Meeting adjourned at noon

 Warehouse Exercise: - Dave Leichenauer & Bob Gawrelski

  • RPTAC Sub-Committee Teams: - Tim Maher, Jeff Jordan

    Sales Processing Team: (Tim Maher)

    The Sales Processing Team is looking at changing the 4-part form into a one page form. The desired results would be an 8 ½ x 11 scan-able form. The new size would be more compatible with deed size for locals to Xerox, plus, the one part form will then make Web access possible. To reduce the size of the form the team is looking for "deadwood", information that is no longer needed or data which is not used. The team recognizes that distribution may present a problem when the form is reduced to one page. County Clerks have been asked to contribute to the team's effort, giving the team a fresh look from a user's perspective. The team is evaluating Optical Character Reader software which will scan a form and generate an electronic data file. The team has begun testing OCR on a select number of forms. Warren County will be part of an optical scanning pilot project. Electronic signatures are currently a barrier. They were not approved in prior legislation as being a legal document.

    Revisit this topic at the December RPTAC meeting.

    Valuation Issues Team: (Jeff Jordan)

    A Trending Commercial Property presentation was given recently by Jeff Jordan, Curt Schoeberl, Todd Wiley, and Dave Williams for the Assessors' Association Rochester Conference and Jeff and Dave presented at the County Director's Canandaigua Conference. The presentations were well received and centered around the commercial property income approach trending methodology used in Ulster County.

    The group mentioned the GAR project, in Saratoga County, regarding the sales approach and income approach. In Saratoga County, they wanted a uniform way to collect the data (7 steps to uniform data, have all assessors reviewing property in the same manner). Efficiency helps to ensure a standard, when looking at sales data.

    Jeff talked about the effort and the sizeable resources needed at the local level to accomplish both projects which took cooperation at every level for success. The idea of ORPS guiding and facilitating local efforts to accomplish goals may serve as a model for future efforts. Valuation of commercial property trending is heavily data driven. For the sales ratio approach there is the need for good sales, which means local resources have to cleanse the data. For the income methodology, there is the need for current arms length leases on various industries. There are also publications and web-based information available for expenses and cap rates. Emphasis should be placed on collaboration, data sharing, market analysis and developing guidelines by assessors.

    Todd Wiley and Curt Schoeberl brought up a project by the Assessor's Association to create a secured section on their website, and the on-going local collaboration in Ulster County. They are collecting income data, and qualified benchmark sales with the intent to make it available on their website. The site may also include photos of the properties when possible. A big concern by the association with sharing the income data with ORPS is that the data may be vulnerable to FOIL requests.

    Todd outlined the efforts made in Orange County to work with ORPS to show that the 10% trend for commercial property should be closer to 3%. After reviewing the data, ORPS agreed and lowered the rate. This may not be just a county issue; it may affect a whole region / multiple counties. What efforts can be made to bring uniformity to trends within regions? Regions with significant increases should be analyzed closer. When a county can show proof of a bad trend rate, it begs the question of how did the system "misfire" to be off by so much? ORPS staff should be look deeper into the sales that contributed to the high trend. What data was used to generate the trends? Were the sales generally in better locations or was there over weighting by certain sale types? RPTAC would like to address farm issues at our next meeting. Jeff stated that agriculture is a broad topic and asked that we narrow the scope of our request. Define problems that are occurring and we'll go from there. Lacks of funds and limited resources are also an issue.

    Consider Farm issues as a potential topic for the December RPTAC meeting.

    Action Item #28 - RPTAC will use newsletters and Listserv to encourage the assessing community to visit the ORPS website and view the Commercial Trending presentation.

    Action Item #29 - Dave will put some material out on WebBoard soliciting farm topics for discussion

  • STaR Funding - Tim Maher
  • 2005 Grant Program - Dick Harris, JoAnn Whalen
  • State Aid Form / NYC Assessor Training: - Jim O'Keeffe

A.N.T. was formed in May as a sub-group of RPTAC. Teresa explained that assessors were asking for a change in the assessment notification process. The changes involved the timing of the notices and an effort to make the notices more informative for taxpayers. The team presented two new forms, (a Tax Dollar Comparison Notice and an Assessment Change Notice.) along with a proposal for legislation drafted by Steve Harrison. An effort was made to make the language in the notices a little more user-friendly. Plus, the Assessment Change Notice would now have the option to display the percent change of a parcel vs. the percent change town-wide. Local Assessors would have the option to use either of these forms for notice of preliminary or tentative assessment. The notice must be mailed between 120 days prior to Tentative Roll date and 10 days prior to Grievance Day.
RPTAC discussions centered on providing the legally required information along with having the flexibility for Local Assessors to "tailor" their town notices with whatever additional information they see fit. The current legislation may be good enough when it comes to what information can be displayed on the notices. Steve Harrison suggested we concentrate on the timing issues for our proposal and then fine tune the wording on the notices as a phase two effort. RPTAC is aware that the window for turn-around is tight and cautioned against haste. There is an on-going discussion as to who will introduce the finished proposal. (The Town Assessors, County Directors or ORPS)

Action Item #17 - The Assessment Notification Team will meet again to review Sections 510 and 511 and make their recommendations (w/ new bullets) to Steve Harrison. Steve will then prepare a second proposal that will go back to the sub-group for review.

Action Item #18 - A.N.T. will look into how other states are wording and displaying information within their notices. Look for best practices and benchmark quality efforts they may find.

  • Fulton County
  • Town of West Seneca
  • Town of Greece

Tom Griffen led a discussion on questionable legislation and the possibility of illegal activities going on in the assessing community. Tom noted that ORPS has asked the Governor to review the rollback of reassessments. There were concerns voiced that the negative actions of a few assessors is adversely effecting the public's perception of all assessors. Assessors want to take a proactive stance to help improve their image and credibility. The Assessors raised the question of whether or not an ethics and standards course should be required every two years upon appointment, reappointment, election or re-election. Should a greater emphasis be put on ethics and standards in the new curriculum that is being finalizing? Various other efforts were talked about as ways to deal with future issues:

  1. Document negative situations and look for patterns or commonality
  2. Communicate when we hear of potential problems in assessing community
  3. Locally promote Letters-to-the-editor - get political representative's attention

Action Item #19 - Consider adding ethics and standards to the basic training course load for all Assessors. (The Training Governance Committee)

Action Item #20 - Develop a one day seminar on ethics and standards.(The Training Governance Committee)

An E-Government Survey was conducted with Assessors and County Real Property Tax Directors in January and February of 2005. Over the past few months efforts to improve the response rate have not measurably changed the survey results. RPTAC members have decided that it is now time to share the survey results with the assessment community. Caryn Kolts did an exhaustive follow-up by contacting all of the county directors. Caryn asked them to give the internet access/e-mail address status for Assessors in their counties. The results of Caryn's efforts will be combined with the E-Government Survey results. Some counties were reluctant to share the information with the State. Others that have e-mail say that they rarely access it. Some of the counties that don't have internet access stated that it was mostly due to money constraints.

The results of the E-Government Survey will be published on the ORPS Website in November and via Listserv. Also, the associations for Assessors and Real Property Tax Directors will use the survey results to encourage the use of electronic communication.

As follow-up to RPTAC 2005 Action Item #12, an effort was made to reach out to the Association of Towns and the New York Conference of Mayors in an attempt to collect more e-mail addresses of assessment officials. NYCOM does not collect e-mail addresses and the AOT collects email addresses but is not willing to share them.

RPTAC 2005 Action Item #13 asked the ORPS Internet Unit to publish an electronic newsletter with information concerning the ORPS website. Tom Rutnik reported that there have been three issues of the WebReport sent to the assessment community. RPTAC was in agreement that the content was good. A suggestion was made to change the format of the report to make highlighted areas stand out.

A question was raised about Real Property Tax Administration Technology Improvement grant money being used for municipalities to set up e-mail access. It was noted that the grant money could not be used for e-mail access, but money can be used to enable taxpayers, both current and potential, to gain access to parcel level data and sales information with greater ease and efficiency.

Action Item #21 - Put survey results, by county, in map form on the ORPS web page and share the article with the Assessor's Association to use on their website. Also, if sent in PowerPoint, include a link for a PowerPoint Reader and/or use PDF form.

Action Item #22 - Look into putting on a presentation at an AOT meeting (February) regarding the value and benefits on the ORPS website. Look into involving other State agencies in the presentation, such as OFT and the Department of State.

Flip Charts ( re: Data Warehouse )

Do you use the data warehouse and how often?

  • Certain time of year (LOA)
  • Valuation - July
  • Commercial Sales (verify)
  • Unique residentials
  • Farms
  • Industrials
  • Not used often -too confusing
  • Other munis - to reach out
  • Download the data - data is limited to the date downloaded
  • Most ORPS usage is Sept. - Jan.

How is the data being used?

  • FVM - CAMA, trend, sales ratio
  • Value verification - state aid and equalization
  • Appraisals
  • Equalization Rate challenges
  • Dave Williams - analyst, statewide
  • Locals can check-up on ORPS
  • Small Grievance, Article 7, at grievance time

Are there things that the data warehouse doesn't do or contain that you'd like to see?

  • Record size too large.
  • Needs the ability to pick which data fields to look at
  • Should be able to save a query at the user level
  • Needs to be made user friendly to county directors, assessors, etc.
  • Are sales validated (?)
  • Flood zone information
  • Zoning info - standardization
  • Neighborhood codes, consistent across the state for comparability purposes
  • Inventory on sales - at the time of the sales
  • Effective tax rate on per parcel basis
  • Perform ad-hoc query, more flexibility

Can you suggest Improvement Opportunities for the data warehouse?

  • Assessors need more than what RPS provides. Need more analysis capability
  • Layer on a 3rd application to dump and view data ( software form vender ) Some locals have applications they already are using
  • Create templates that can be used by locals
  • Drop down menus (provide options, queries)
  • Data mining, making sense of what data you have ( what's important )
  • Have a Summary level
  • Ulster Co/, commercial sales
  • CRM - reports, residential Common Commercial by region, by muni, even by county
  • Effective Tax Rate on a per parcel basis
  • Flexibility with queries ( RPS has similar problem )
  • If structure of database and screens were the same as RPS, looks like RPS - data warehouse would seem familiar and easier to utilize
  • Land Schedules
  • County-wide valuation factor files
  • Data is not refreshed continuously, only refreshed once a year after final roll
  • SalesWeb vs. data warehouse downloads weekly
  • Income data sharing with ORPS- it's a Confidentiality issue (FOIL concerns)
  • What's New Jersey doing?
  • Password process - (it is an OFT requirement, that ORPS cannot change)