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Department of Taxation and Finance

Real Property Tax Administration

MINUTES
June 14, 2006
ENCON Bldg. Albany, NY

Facilitator: Dave Leichenauer
Recorders: Janice Heeran
Assessors:Tom Frey, Rick Hubner, J. Todd Wiley, Patrick Duffy, William Quick and Larry Quinn
County Directors:Valeria Coggin, Caryn Kolts, John McCarey, Michael Swan, Kathy Myers and Carol Holley
ORPS: Don DeWitt, Tom Bellard, Rich Sinnott, Dennis Jersey, Tim Maher
Others: Jim O'Keeffe, Geoff Gloak, Don Card, Steve King, Jeff Jordan, Dick Harris, Paul Szwedo, Tom Rutnik, Curt Schoeberl, Kathy Bohacek

Housekeeping:
Minutes of March 2006. Hubner asked that his 2 corrections be made: 

    1. A. ORPS Publications - Assessment Appeals Booklets - Rick asked to have the last sentence of paragraph ten deleted. "This information should not come as a surprise to these individuals because the county assessor has exceeded his budget.  
    2. E. Assessment Practices in NYS - Rick edited the 1st paragraph to say, "Rick's concern is where annual reassessment doesn't occur, we need to develop a strategy to provide for assessment improvements in those municipalities. The State has a responsibility to advance good assessment practices statewide for the benefit of all taxpayers in New York". 
      • Don DeWitt introduced Kathy Bohacek to RPTAC.
        After her introduction, Kathy gave a brief description of her job duties as CIO at ORPS. Kathy made mention of the Project Management Office, to support project activities and Performance Management, to support operational activities and the need for both. She indicated that the use of an Enterprise Project Portfolio would help answer the question, "Is ORPS working on the right things?" Kathy then discussed the concept of Enterprise Architecture and she told the group how ORPS is working to implement organizational changes that will encourage the effective use of our limited resources.  
      • I.S.O.T. and E-Government Team
        Rick Hubner expressed his concern over manpower to Kathy.

        RPTAC wanted to know who would be making the decisions. Kathy replied that the Enterprise Project Portfolio (EPP) is currently a work in progress. The Executive Director would have to decide if the portfolio will be generally available. She went on to share that the criterion that identifies which work efforts will be listed on the EPP has not yet been established. ORPS leadership will be collaborating to make these decisions soon.

        Valeria asked about the ISOT Team and if this was going to be resurrected as a new team? Previously the team used to prioritize activities and technological questions. Kathy said that she and Paul Szwedo discussed ISOT and wants to make sure it's clear that we create a forum for stakeholders who currently do not have a way to express their concerns and information sharing. She expressed that the concept of information sharing remained important to the agency but that the ISOT and EGT meeting model didn't appear to be effective. Kathy talked about identifying alternative approaches to sharing information between local governments and NYS ORPS. Kathy indicated that she would share the concerns with the appropriate ORPS representative. Rick expressed his concern that her approach would not work.

        Paul Szwedo then spoke about the EGT, noting that there was a split in expectations of the group. Some members were interested in long-range goals and some were interested in more current activities. Attendance at ISOT meetings was minimal. Paul said there was overlap between different groups and that there was a need to define our tasks and evaluate what resources we have available. The determination is that ISOT and EGT Teams are discontinued.  

        • Update current efforts and next steps

      As carry over from the last meeting - we reviewed all the platforms we have and use and decided that we need to focus on a better use of these platforms. We've adjusted web content and added a Google search tool. We've repositioned info on the taxpayer page; we repositioned tags and added tax mapping resources to our web page. We gathered as many of the sites as we could and added the links to our page as a service.

      We've formed a work group to devise the best way to bring the search across the enterprise. We met with Bearing Point to discuss this since their consulting group offered the capability of an enterprise search solution that would leverage our Google search tool. Their proposed solutions would involve customized work that we can't afford. ORPS will continue to investigate and research tools to help us with enterprise searches.

      We realized that the web board technology wasn't being utilized. We removed the eStar Webboard information and moved it to a content page. Since the last meeting, Dave Leichenauer used LISTSERV for RPTAC communications instead of Webboard. Rick wondered why we didn't get the minutes or agenda. Rick liked the option of webboard because you could go back and review material. It was noted that LISTSERV has this same capability.

      Action Item #58 - LISTSERV training for RPTAC members. Geoff Gloak will send info to RPTAC.

      Action Item #59 - RPTAC members requested was an explanation of how to find ORPS employee's name and phone numbers on the web. Tom Rutnik will take care of this.    

      As the result of two team members (Dave Briggs and Roger Tibbetts ) resigning, RPTAC wanted to discuss and review the Equalization Project Team's recent history. There seems to be a concern that the team may not be going in the right direction. Is the team functioning correctly?

      Curt Schoeberl said that video conferencing is not successful, especially if it's a long meeting. RPTAC members were disappointed that they did not know before hand, ORPS was hiring a consultant. Dave Williams said ORPS had asked Bob Gloudemanns to look at data to determine if ORPS was near our targets regarding commercial trends. ORPS staff noted that as an active consultant, Mr. Gloudemanns' opinion is routinely sought out on matters such as this.

      After a brief discussion, RPTAC decided to let the Equalization Project Team work through this issue. The suggestion was made to re-visit the team charter and compare it to the team's annual reports to determine if they are consistent with each other.

      Action Item #60 - have the Equalization Project Team review their Charter and conduct a review of current issues, leadership and membership. Tim Maher will report back on their July meeting.

      Action Item #61 - Ask Jeff Green to present data from his customer satisfaction survey at next RPTAC meeting.   

        • Information sharing by Rick, Dave
        • Group Discussion on Materials
        • Next Steps

      Dave Williams, Rick Hubner and Joe Muscarella put data together in an attempt to analyze if there are certain conditions that make annual reassessment, or some other method of maintaining assessment equity, more likely to be successful for maintaining good assessment practices. They found no particular conditions that predicted success. With the pending turnover in State administration (Governor), the group believes our time would best be spent by gathering the thoughts from the local assessment community. As a result we decided to gather data through focus sessions this coming fall. We will try to gather unbiased thoughts and prepare these in raw form to serve as useful data for potential assessment practice improvements by the incoming administration.

      It was noted that to be successful we should have all 3 groups sponsor and be involved in these focus sessions. A meeting time of October or November was suggested. Meetings would be held in the regional offices. We could also ask members of RPTAC or other individuals prepare written comments or suggestions and submit them ahead of time. We have to be careful in how we structure this meeting. We need to ask 'why is this working' or 'why is this not working for you?' Measuring success is different for different people.

      Dave Williams, Rick Hubner, Valeria Coggin (or her nominee) and Joe Muscarella will work on the logistics of this meeting and discuss at a future RPTAC meeting.  

        • Update on latest activities in NYC

      Emergency rules were adopted in April. GORR has approved the rules and the formal process has begun. ORPS needs to schedule a hearing before the July board meeting. After that, we will report to the Board. The New York City Department of Finance has scheduled training and has given 2 components so far.

      • Update on O.C.R. Pilot Project
        Optical Character Recognition - was a pilot project in Warren County. ORPS developed a one part 5217 form. The goal was to see if it would be useful to ORPS and eliminate keypunching and data information would be accurate. The desired outcome was a quick turnaround to get parcel into the database, information is neater and information would be more legible. However, it didn't work as well for anyone else. Assessor still wanted a copy, therefore they still had to photocopy the form. There is still a cost associated with the copier and the cost of paper, plus tying up staff time. Tax mapping people said it was not as easy to read. People didn't like the form, layout and reading the form. We are trying to redesign the form before we go back to the pilot program.
  • Introduction of Kathy Bohacek - Don DeWitt
  • Enterprise Website Search Engine Effort - Paul Szwedo and Tom Rutnik
  • Equalization Project Team - Rick Hubner
  • Assessment Practices in NYS - Hubner and Williams
  • New York City Training - Jim O'Keeffe
  • Sales Processing Team - Tim Maher

It was pointed out that some of the forms on the ORPS website are fill-ins and couldn't we go in that direction? The group mentioned that we need to get this done before someone else comes along and does a redesign. Typewriters are gone; more forms are being filled in by hand. Maybe we should reevaluate this process and go to a computerized or internet generated form. OCR started about 4 years ago to help ORPS with data input. It was pointed out that Electronic Income tax filing does not require a signature on the form. Do we need a statute to change our law here in NYS to file this form?

  • Update on meeting with Clerks
    Clerks would like to see us jump to the end, accurate data, timely, reduced data entry and eliminate duplicate data entry.

Are local officials ready for changes, do they still want paper copies? Do the local officials still want to key in the information? Should we revisit the whole format, what info does ORPS need? The towns that are on the internet now, why can't we use the V4 and just update with the new information and use a confirmation number once it's received/updated, similar to ordering items on-line or filing our income tax.

Technology is there, but very costly, New York City spent $40 million on their ACRIS project. Dennis Jersey said it would require a full time project team to develop this project. We have so many players involved that do things very differently from each other. We have been challenging Tim's staff to give us better numbers to work with. There are extreme security issues and modification modules involved with changing V4. Who would develop this software and pay for the cost?

Joe Gerberg addressed RPTAC concerns regarding Schuyler County and Real Property Tax Law # 1537 - Other County Options (re: Assessment Services) The concern was that Schuyler County is talking about having the county assume the responsibility to appraise all real property within it's assessing units for assessment purposes. Joe was able to walk us through the legal language, as he answered all RPTAC questions. 

ORPS Feedback

At the September RPTAC meeting there was a brainstorming session generating a list of Data Warehouse improvements desired. Dennis met with staff to review each of the items and tried to figure out the ramifications if we tried to make some of these changes.

Category: Partially doable within the existing structure of the data warehouse

People wanted the ability to select any data item field in the DW database. There are upwards of 1,000 data items and this cannot be accomplished. This is a common problem with large database structures. The DW currently has a few dozen predefined data downloads available to the assessment community. We have the programming ability to take any specific download, and show those data items for that download on the screen, and allow the user to pick which data items they want from that specific download only.

Category: Restructure of data warehouse and applications required

D/W was developed to download a large quantity of data. To be able to save query at the user level desktop. This would require a lot of extra programming work and possibly more software would be needed.

Ad hoc query though out the warehouse, not easily done. The relationships between tables within databases are too large and very cumbersome.

Allowing a piece of vendor software to come in and interact with the data warehouse would be very expensive and a lot of work to accomplish the desired result.

General discussion:

Where do we draw the line between RPS functionality and the Data Warehouse? Bottom line, most of this brainstorm list is a lot of work and would need a conceptual DW redesign. The DW was not designed for much of the brainstorm ideas. This would require a lot of discussion, where do you want to take the data warehouse?

There were 370 visits to the data warehouse. 5 people that visited 10 times or more. 28 came on 3-10 times a year. 337 people came on 2 times or less. It suggests to us that externally, not many people are using it. Comment made: that's because it doesn't do what we want. 

End of Day Wrap-up

Next Meeting:
DATE: September 7th and 8th (Thursday and Friday)
LOCATION: Cresthill Suites.

Farm Vacant land Effort - Curt Schoeberl and Mark Twentyman

  • Update current efforts and next steps
    Since the last RPTAC session, the group has reviewed the sales data and discussed the best way to turn this raw data into a useful product for assessors to assist them in agricultural land valuation.

    Every farm sale is made up of a large set of variables and requires a thorough investigation in order to accurately allocate value to the component parts. An attempt was made to see if any conclusions could be derived from the large set of data from the data warehouse. From the observations the group found that there is too high a degree of variability of values even in the same general area to develop any kind of meaningful trends or value ranges.

    Mark discussed the preliminary study with Curt Schoeberl and Todd Wiley. They have concluded that the next step has to be a localized study of farm sales. One idea would be to focus on the agricultural area north of Ithaca, NY. This area has a strong agricultural base and does not have a lot of non-agricultural pressures on land values.

    By selecting this area we may be able to tap into some of Cornell's resources. Mark has also spoken with Prof. Nelson Bills and Prof. Joe Francis at Cornell. In a conference call, they indicated a willingness to help. Cornell has a wealth of economic data which will be important if we develop an income approach to farm land values. Graduate students could also provide an additional resource. Further discussion with Cornell will be needed.

    Additionally, Bob Wright of our Batavia office indicated he may be able to find time to study a second agricultural area in Western New York.

    We've been working on this project since 1997 and haven't progressed. What about the new grant program, could a grant be used to fund this effort?

    Valeria said there are other options. Maybe Tompkins County could ask for the grant and have Cornell do the work. Valeria said she just heard about a program and we should investigate. It involved the State Archives, for Land Archiving Information available through the State Education Library.

    Curt would like to ask Cornell how much money they would require to accomplish results. Locals could try to reach-out to Senator Saland to sponsor funding for this effort. It seems that he made an attempt to secure funding this past year via a member item, so the idea is to encourage him to continue to seek the funding next cycle. What about the farm community themselves, they must have organizations that could get involved in lobbying the legislature  

Information sharing

Joe and Paul gave a brief summary of the RPT related bills that had passed both houses (but had not yet been signed into law). As of the meeting, there were only 6 scheduled days of the ordinary legislative session remaining and thus much of the bill status information was very much in a state of flux.

Joe referred to some bills affecting STAR that were included within the budget, and gave a brief overview of a new rebate/income STaR which would be provided by ORPS to the department of Tax and Finance. If enacted, one area that will need further effort is development of a procedure for getting names and addresses of STaR recipients in co-op apartments and mobile home parks. (P.S. A final version of a new rebate/income tax credit program was ultimately enacted as part of Chapter 109 of the Laws of 2006 (see Part F, on pp. 37-45, of S.8471 for details)).

Paul also provided a list of bills that had only passed in one House of the legislature, and some others that were nearing passage. It was mentioned that the Assessment Notification related Departmental bill, worked on by a RPTAC sub-group (S.8162/A.11522), had not yet made it through the process. (P.S. As of the end of the ordinary session, the disclosure related bill had only been passed by the Senate.)  

Updated: