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Department of Taxation and Finance

Real Property Tax Administration Committee

MINUTES
December 8 & 9, 2005
Clarion Hotel, Albany, NY

Facilitator: Dave Leichenauer
Recorders: Janice Heeran
Assessors:Tom Frey, Rick Hubner, J. Todd Wiley, Patrick Duffy, William Quick and Curt Schoeberl
County Directors:Valeria Coggin, Caryn Kolts, John McCarey, Michael Swan, Kathy Myers
ORPS: Don DeWitt, Tom Bellard, JoAnn Whalen, Rich Sinnott, Dennis Jersey and John Wolham
Others: Jim O'Keeffe, Geoff Gloak, Greg Kidd, Jeff Jordan, Patti Quinn, Jeff Green, Sue Otis, Kim Manley and Lynn Butterfield

Housekeeping:
Three corrections to the Minutes of September 28 and 29, 2005 

  1. Remove Jim Gonyo from the attendance list.  
  2. Section heading Current Issues, change wording.
    Action Item #22 - Originally discussed one of the ten days of Assessment Administration training, but then left it at a separate one day seminar.  
  3. Add wording to sentence: 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.  

Dave reported out on recent Action Items that were not going to be on the December Agenda.

Action Item #18 - The Assessment Notification Team was able to re-work their draft proposal and ORPS was moving forward with proposing the legislation. Tom Frey asked if RPTAC members could review the revised draft bill. Rich Sinnott stated that once the sub-group made their modifications, there was a short window for RPTAC to propose the legislation. Given the time restraint, ORPS presented the bill for legislation. We may have an update available for the March meeting.

Action Item #19 - A meeting of the Training Governance Committee was scheduled but had to be cancelled because there was no quorum.

Note: E-Government survey was added to the website this week.

Tom Frey outlined an situation where an assessor was being discharged without a proper hearing. Rich Sinnott agreed to work with Tom to investigate the circumstances further.

  1. RPTAC Membership
  2. Grant Program - JoAnn Whalen
  3. Annual Re-Assessment Symposium - John Wolham
  4. Valuation Issues Team - Jeff Jordan

    The Valuation Issues Team met November 16, 2005 and had a discussion on agriculture. Jeff reviewed the minutes from that team meeting. Jeff stated the RPS counts farms as residential and does not include an income approach for farms. Jeff then produced a letter he had received from Harry Baldwin, Chairman of the Agriculture and Farmland Protection Board of Dutchess County. It reads "there are a limited number of farm sales and asked that assessors develop a set of universal standards that all assessors must follow". They "encourage and support the development of a statewide Farm Valuation Factor Files that would provide assessors with the collective information needed for development of fair and equitable farm assessments across the state".

    The expense involved creating statewide Farm Valuation Factor Files is clearly a barrier. A handful of RPTAC volunteers agreed to look into vacant land sales within true farm regions of NYS (regions not influenced by big city development). At the same time, they will attempt to collect data involving sales of vacant / bare land. The idea here is that vacant land at 70% tillable is similar to farm land. The goal is to come up with a per acre price that is within 10 - 15 % accurate through-out the state. See if the data supports a ballpark figure that may assist downstate assessors when valuing farms. During the discussion on farm issues, flipcharts captured the following comments:

    • Within the state, a lack of farmer to farmer sales
    • Developers will step in and pay a premium
    • Income approach - Best method for farms considering current use
    • Appraisal vs. assessment is always a problem
    • Highest and best use
    • Sold and leased back to farmer
    • Focus on land (bare land)
    • True Farm regions around the state
    • Ag ceilings
    • Reach out to farm bureau for sharing of available data
    • Cornell as a resource, information available
    • Land - farm sales statewide, search databases
    • Bare land - vacant - 70% tillable

    Action Item #33 - Valeria will contact Cornell Cooperative Extension and Cornell University about compiling data on agricultural property, perhaps utilizing a student to work on this project.

    Action Item #34 - Jeff Jordan will contact the Farm Bureau to see if they are willing to share data.

    Action Item #35 - A group consisting of Dennis Jersey, Jeff Jordan, Mark Twentyman, Curt Schoeberl & J. Todd Wiley will attempt to search the ORPS Data Warehouse for farm / vacant land sales in an effort to determine if a per acre land value for farms can be determined using a larger volume of sales. A small sample region or counties will be selected to see if this search has the potential to be used statewide. The objective is to test a suggested premise that all farms in the State have land vales within a 10 -15 % value range.

    Valeria asked if there was an easier way to Search the ORPS website. Valeria would like a Search tool that can search different web boards and servers. Jeff mentioned that ORPS now has Google for a search engine and will look into this issue.

    Action Item #36 - Investigate the possibility of a universal search tool to search all web boards at the same time. (Geoff Gloak and Dennis Jersey)

    (I.)
    Note: We were able to finish our scheduled discussions early, so we addressed Agenda Item (I.) before we ended Day One. We set the dates for our 2006 RPTAC meetings. 

    2006 RPTAC Meeting Schedule
    March 9 and 10, Thursday and Friday
    June 14 and 15, Wednesday and Thursday
    September 7 and 8, Thursday and Friday
    December 14 and 15, Thursday and Friday

    RPTAC members would like more options to consider for meeting space and room rates. Dave L. mentioned that the government rate at the new Hampton Inn across the street from ORPS is $94, plus $10 parking. Not all members of RPTAC get reimbursement at the State rate and would like to find another hotel closer to the $80 rate the Clarion now charges.

    Action Item #37 - ORPS will contact Group Sales at other area hotels to seek out options. Some hotels suggested were the Hampton Inn (Latham) and the Clarion Suites (Latham).

    Day 2 

 

Kim presented RPTAC with the Sales Processing Team's end of the year report. (See Attachment One)

Kim spoke about the 5217 effort and said that a majority of the people involved with this effort are interested in making improvements. The Optical Character Reader project began November 1st and ORPS is waiting for the test forms to be retuned. This is a good first step. ORPS still wants to change the 5217 form from a four-part form to a one-part form. The team will revisit the possibility of combining the tax form with our form, but currently there are confidentiality issues, such as the use of social security numbers, so we will not pursue this at this time. The group will work to develop a long-time vision that ideally, will lead to a paperless transmission process. County Clerks are now involved with the team's effort. ORPS will try another outreach to the Bar Association to stress accuracy of the information on the 5217 form.

A discussion followed about sales that are removed by the assessors and then added back in by OPRS. Most of these included sales of homes that had had definite improvements made to them but for which they were not taxed previously. A common problem is that most homeowners will not allow the assessors into their homes to verify if any improvements have been made. ORPS requires proof of when the improvements were made between taxable status date and date of sale. RPTAC members were asked to provide samples of exclusions that were put back in. This issue should be added to the next RPTAC agenda. The Sales Processing Team plans to report out again in March. Note: The Sales Processing Team's current one year charge expires in March, which requires RPTAC to re-charge the group for 2006.

Action Item #38 - Prior to the March meeting, RPTAC members will provide examples of sales exclusions that were put back in by ORPS. ORPS will review and respond. (J. Todd Wiley) 

 

Jim presented RPTAC with the Equalization Project Team's end of the year report. (See Attachment Two)

Jim reported out on the twelve issues identified for 2005. He spoke briefly on each issue giving RPTAC a summary of the team's results. Jim stated that the team is fine tuning the equalization process and has set up guidelines for the pre-decisional collaboration process. The guidelines were developed and distributed to all assessors, county directors and ORPS regional staff. The team also presented a course on PDC at the New York State Assessors' Association Conference.

In regards to #9: Push for ORPS to study the expansion of CAMA modeling techniques to the commercial and/or vacant property classes. Valeria mentioned that they are getting inquiries from outside vendors. Jim asked that their director, Bob Diener, send information to him. Dennis Jersey pointed out that ORPS has been working with Bob Gloudemans.

Process Note: Rick Hubner asked that these reports, and any other reading materials, be furnished prior to the meeting, so that members have a chance to properly review and prepare for discussions.

 

Bank Codes is labor intensive to all individuals required to use them. There is no statewide list of bank codes. Additional problems arise when individuals re-finance thus changing their bank codes. Current and correct codes are needed for assessors to know where to send tax bills. Rich Sinnott said this has been talked about at several RPTAC sessions and AOT meetings. It was agreed, that ORPS and the assessors have no leverage with this issue. They are not the parties than can lobby to make a change. Requests for change need to come from collectors. Rich added that Betty Greene has tried to reach out to the Banking Department, but it appeared that they had no interest in this issue. Tom Frey said the Assessors will try again to address this issue by contacting TSOs, etc. 

 

Don Card and Rich Keil provided RPTAC with a summary of the legislative change relating to the delivery of Special Franchise values. One of the main benefits is that ORPS can now deliver special franchise values earlier. Rich shared a copy of the SVS mailing that notified assessors, supervisors and mayors of the new guidelines and timeframe. The mailing included a recently published article from The Uniform Standard which also out-lined the legislative change, along with a list of cities and villages not affected for the 2006 rolls. 

 

RPTAC members brainstormed possible topics for 2006:

  1. Farm Vacant Land (follow-up)
  2. Valuation in NYS (group discussion)
  3. Sales exclusions (Share examples and discussion)
  4. Search engine on ORPS website
  5. Symposium follow-up (Review report)
  6. Information on the Grant Program (Re-cap / Summery)
  7. Knowledge sharing (Pilot Update)
  8. E-Gov Team and ISOT - will be looked at by ORPS
  9. Quarterly reports by sub-committees
  10. Data warehouse (Feedback on Flipcharts)
    Others:
    Changes required by RPS unit, full value of assumptions
    Property class codes (ex: In-law apartments)

Process improvements for RPTAC Meetings:

  1. Team members requested hand-outs, reports, and any other reading materials be furnished prior to the meeting. Members need time to properly review material and prepare for discussions. Distribute material to RPTAC members, 5 days prior to meeting.
  2. Action Items list: Grey out items that are completed. Offer a year-end-update.
  3. Year-end reports by all committees and what was accomplished.
  4. Set goals for the year. Have each group bring in a 'Critical Issues List" they would like discussed for next year.

Action Item #39 - Set RPTAC goals for the up-coming year. Have each group bring in a "Critical Issues List" that they would like to have addressed.

Next RPTAC Meeting: March 9th & 10th (Thursday and Friday, Hampton Inn (Latham, NY)

  • Sales Processing Team - Kim Manley
  • Equalization Project Team - Jim O'Keeffe
  • Bank Codes - John McCarey
  • SVS Special Franchise Legislation - Rich Keil
  • 2006 Agenda Items

Tom Bellard addressed ORPS membership on RPTAC. ORPS will be represented by Don DeWitt, Tom Bellard, Dennis Jersey, Rick Sinnott, Dave Williams, and Tim Maher. Alternates will be Steve King and Don Card. The new members will rotate in for the March meeting.

Tom then introduced Don DeWitt to the group and started a go-around for everyone to identify themselves and their affiliation.

ORPS conducted information sessions in the regional offices, which generate a lot of interest at every site. Each region had about 35-40 people in attendance. A lot of insightful questions were asked and the answers were published on the Grant portion of the ORPS website (FAQ). The opening of the grant applications will occur in early January. Once the grant program cycle is completed, ORPS intends to re-visit the regions reaching out to the assessing community for feedback and possible improvement opportunities.

John Wolham used a series of hand-outs to re-cap the symposium. John went on to address concerns his group had when looking back at the effectiveness of the presentations.

The event was split into two sessions outlining a series of contentions the team had put together. There were seven contentions listed and three were presented at the symposium. Time did not allow for the other four to be discussed in detail.

The afternoon session dealt with public information issues. A suggestion was made that we should have presented information on how ORPS could help the audience with their public information issues. Development of a model for a successful Public Relations Plan may have had value to the attendees.

Sue Otis suggested a regional symposium next time and commented that too much information / data was presented at this symposium. The focus of the 2005 symposium had taken a technical slant rather than a public relations slant. Tom Bellard stated that participants really didn't want the numbers, they were looking to air some of the political or PR stuff, saying that they were trying to do the right thing, and that they had a lot of pressure by the citizens, etc. The comments made by attendees were valid and resulted in a number of good suggestions for improvement.

The team will present a report on the event, hopefully in January 2006; this report will also include recommendations for follow-up.

Rich Hubner requested an action item to make "Assessment Practices in the State of NY" an agenda item. RPTAC members, in general, were in agreement that some brainstorming sessions were needed. The comment was made that for the municipalities that only have 2-3 sales per year, annual reassessment can work for them. Help is needed in the areas that have an abundance of sales to ensure quality annual reassessments. Another comment was made that Assessors are getting burned out trying to meet their reassessment obligations. Will ORPS continue to support the Tri-annual Reassessment Program and what about developing more options for aide program?

Action Item #32 - Make "Assessment Practices in the State of New York" an Agenda item for our March session. (Rick Hubner)

Updated: