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REAL PROPERTY TAX ADMINISTRATION

MINUTES
Friday, June 22, 2007 (8:00am-1:00pm)
Clarion Hotel, 3 Watervliet Ave. Ext. Albany, New York 12206

Facilitator: Alan Kresge
Recorders: Mary Beth Cimino
Assessors: Tom Frey, Rick Hubner, Patrick Duffy, William Quick, Lawrence Quinn, Timothy Sheares, Curt Schoeberl
County Directors: David Hastings, Caryn Kolts, Kathleen Myers, Carol Holley, Michael Swan
ORPS: Don DeWitt, Jim O'Keeffe, Richard Harris, Dave Williams, Tim Maher, Dennis Jersey
Others: Sue Otis, Tom Bellard, Jim Dunne, Geoff Gloak, Joe Gerberg, John Clarkson

Alan Kresge opened the meeting by welcoming everyone and introducing himself as facilitator of the meeting and Mary Beth Cimino as recorder for both Dave Leichenauer and Janice Heeran respectively.

Minutes: - change on page 13 - under Topics for Next Agenda: 3rd bullet change meeting to public relations.

Communication Issue: - In regard to future agendas - future communications should go through the chairpersons of the groups - not the presidents. The presidents should be kept informed by the chairperson. Tom Frey stated that in order to obtain a free meeting room it was agreed that the group would reserve 10 hotel rooms. We need to keep this in mind when setting agendas. Also, Tom noted that the meeting room was reserved for two days and the hotel could have rented the room out on Thursday if he had known the meeting was changed to one day.

    1.  
        1. Who is the author of the pamphlet?

          ORPS with John Clarkson and the Commissions approval. 

        2. Why wasn't this shared with all parties?

      John explained that ORPS should not be blamed for responding to the administration of the Commission's charge to provide information and to communicate with the people who want to know more about county assessing.

        1. If the public wants to talk about county assessing shouldn't they have information regarding the entire process, not just the advantages (advantages vs. disadvantages)?

      Certainly one should. There is no doubt that it is very complex issue to address and several meetings, pamphlets, etc. will need to occur for every issue to be heard. John Clarkson stated that pamphlet was based on need for information to be shared.

        1. Where is the data that generated this information; is there a study?

      ORPS was involved in various attempts of county assessing. We were very involved in the nuts and bolts analysis for county assessing in Tompkins County and the prior Madison County situation.

      Action Item #79 - Jim O'Keeffe will distribute county assessing studies to Tom Frey and Michael Swan.

        1. Is the Commission's charge to also recommend legislative changes?

      Yes and we are probably going to constitutional issues as well. 

       

      Jim O'Keeffe: ORPS is working on a "How To Pamphlet" which will address questions that a county would have to ask and information they would have to gather to help make a decision in what direction they want to go.

          -Assessor's Association

        -County Director's Association
  • Commission on Local Government Efficiency and Competitiveness: Don DeWitt, Jim O'Keeffe, John Clarkson
  • SCAR Hearing: HK Lo, Jim O'Keeffe

For the full information on the Commission refer to: www.nyslocalgov.org.

Alan introduced John Clarkson who is the Executive Director of the Commission on Local Government Efficiency and Competitiveness. Don DeWitt gave an overview of ORPS involvement in the Commission and where we are to date. The commission was established in April and ORPS is one member among many. Jim O'Keeffe is the ORPS' liaison to the committee as well as being ORPS counsel. There have been two meetings of the Commission to date but John is working daily with his staff on the items identified by the Commission as important and one of the items being County Assessing. ORPS has been asked to work with John and the first visible effort was the pamphlet. Jim O'Keeffe is on the inter-agency task force, which is the group below the commissioner level. The task force has met three times to date. This group discusses general concepts from which Jim receives assignments which he has passed on to Geoff Gloak. Geoff has completed the assignment and everyone seems satisfied.

Questions were raised regarding the pamphlet: 

David Hastings stated that he was in favor of county-wide assessing but is disturbed with the way this has come about. Subsequent discussions, assessors, directors, and a consensus as to what direction we need to move in should have occurred before the brochure from ORPS was distributed. ORPS is now looked at as in favor of county assessing which is not a beneficial view with the local town, village and city assessors. Concern is that if ORPS is going to be the spokesperson to the counties - they need to be more objective.

Tom Frey distributed a handout with the 10 Benefits of County Assessing (per ORPS in pamphlet) and a response to each of these benefits. John Clarkson stated he will review the document at a later time.

John Clarkson listened to everyone's comments and concerns and stated point taken. John wrapped up his portion of the meeting by thanking everyone for inviting him to the meeting and for their input and stated the Commission is going to be moving forward with this topic and welcomes discussion from members. John distributed his business card to members.

Next Steps: Communicating from the individual organizations to commission

Patrick Duffy stated that while the group understands that ORPS was told to publish the pamphlet it was what went into the pamphlet that causes problems. He feels the pamphlet undermines the quality of the job the assessors in the rural communities are doing. He feels basically it is saying without countywide assessing, you do not have a professional assessor.

Don DeWitt summed up his thoughts on what the Commission was attempting to achieve with the distribution of the County Assessing pamphlet. He believes they were throwing it out in the middle of the room and opening up discussion. They are not saying one size fits all nor are they working at the state level from the top down. The Commission was intending that the individual counties who are interested in pursuing this would discuss it amongst themselves and come up with a plan that fits their county. Each plan would bring different ideas and methods to achieve County Assessing with the hope that the counties would share amongst each other. The pamphlet was designed to tell the counties what they can do now right now without changes in legislation. Don suggested to Tom Frey and Mike Swan to bring their concerns directly to the Commission. 

HK Lo was available to listen to any concerns the RPTAC members had in regard to the practices of hearing officers. HK stated that the qualifications of Hearing Officers are available on-line. The requirements and certification of Hearing Officers are the responsibility of the Office of Court Administration. Court Administration does now require Hearing Officers to be recertified.

Tom Frey asked if there is an accepted method of filing complaints on individual hearing officers - is there a chain of command that should be taken? HK replied that each county has a county coordinator in charge assigning hearing officers. Complaints/comments regarding hearing officers should be directed to this individual.

  • STaR 2007 Rebate Cycle: Tim Maher

Tim Maher shared the latest information on the STaR Rebate Program. The State Budget for 2007 provides $1.3 billion in property tax relief by increasing the existing STAR program with an additional benefit for middle-class taxpayers and increased benefits for seniors.

Enhanced STAR: This program provides rebate checks for homeowners that receive an enhanced STAR exemption for 2007-08 school years. The assessors will provide ORPS with the names and addresses for these individuals and ORPS will transmit this data to the NYS Department of Tax and Finance (DTF). Tax and Finance will make checks directly to these homeowners. Taxpayers with enhanced STAR exemption do not need to take any actions.

Basic STAR: This program is for homeowners with a basic STAR exemption and an income of less than $250,000. The amount of the checks will vary based on income level, school district and municipality. The assessors will provide ORPS with the names and addresses for these individuals and ORPS will transmit this date to DTF. DTF will mail information on how to apply for the rebate to these taxpayers. Taxpayers will need to apply to DTF to receive a rebate check. They will be using the 2005 income tax.

Tax and Finance is still working on the paper application and web-site application. For the basic STAR the taxpayer is going to have the opportunity to enter their name and social security information. Tax and Finance would like the taxpayer only to have to give their social security number once and not every year to receive rebate. RPS is working on program for assessors which will show any issues in regard to change in ownership, etc. Tax and Finance will then only have to check income and issue rebate check every fall. Tax and Finance will provide a web-site which has many helpful questions and answers. They also have a phone number for just assessors to call into with questions.

Some accommodation needs to be made for mobile homes and co-ops. The assessors will submit assessment rolls and information for co-ops and mobile homes in mobile home parks to ORPS. Information is for the 2007-08 school levies.

  • Legislative Cycle Update: Paul Miller, Joe Gerberg, Jim O'Keeffe

Paul brought RPTAC up-to-date on RPT legislative activity for the current cycle. He distributed two handouts, the first showing the 2007 RPT Related Bills of Interest that have passed one house and the second being the 2007 RPT Related Bills of Interest that have passed both houses. Paul opened up discussion on any of bills that were of interest to the group.

2007 Agricultural Assessment Values

There was some concern expressed by the assessors regarding Bill No. S03253. Amd S304-a, Ag and Markets L: Provides that the change in the base agricultural assessment values for any given year shall not exceed ten percent of the assessment value of the preceding year; applies to the base agricultural assessment value calculated for 2007 and each succeeding year thereafter. Jim O'Keeffe addressed their concerns.

  • Training Governance Committee: Jim O'Keeffe, Tom Frey

Jim O'Keeffe and Tom Frey brought the RPTAC members up-to-date on the Training Governance Committee's activities. The committee is reviewing the training program component by component. Tom Frey informed the group of a training spending plan. ORPS had to submit to Budget a spending plan for training (2006-07) - $350,000 upstate/$350,000 New York City. For 2007-08, the plan went up to Budget on Monday, June 18.

Action Item #80: Jim O'Keeffe will share the 2007-08 spending plan with Tom and Mike once approved.

Tom Frey will distribute a form showing progress of each course - are they complete, where they are now, when they will be given, etc.

Action Item #81: Synopsis of where the whole program stands for next meeting including the reimbursement money. (Tom Frey)

In regard to the two letters that are going out - the letter to County Directors is addressed to County Clerks - need to have separate letters to both. In regard to the appointment letter it should be addressed to The Clerk to the Board.

  • RPTAC Public Information Effort: Dave Williams, Geoff Gloak

RPTAC was brought up-to-date on the Outreach sub-group's activities. Geoff Gloak distributed the Inventory of Public Relations Tools document. Geoff asked the group for other publications that may be helpful to local officials, taxpayers, etc.

Public Relation Tool - Ideas for Improvement:

      -Understanding Assessment and Property Taxes (paper and electronic)

      -Condo Law Loop Holes (powerpoint)

      -Standards for the Assessors Office (folder)

      -PDC 123 Procedures for Assessors (paper and electronic)

      -Assessor's Bulletin

      -County Director's Newsletter (electronic)

      -IAAO

    -Tax Bill Blown Up (Carol Holley)

Action Item #82: External Documents (need to assemble a list). How do we get authorization to use? Tom Frey is going to check with the NRAAO - Northeast Regional Association Assessing Officers.

Dave Williams brought to the table the idea of promoting and developing strategy to increase general public understanding of Real Property Tax.

How do we market our solutions?

      -External Assistance: Alan Dorn

      -Grants to develop a plan or implement plan (grants.gov)

      -ESCOT provides consulting services to not-for-profit and governmental organizations.

      Provides high quality consulting services to many large and small clients.

      -Center for Excellence in Aging Services

      -SUNY Albany, Sydney Creswell - Inter-governmental projects

-Look at Marketing Plans for Other States - Tom Frey

Action Item #83: Jim O'Keeffe will give feedback to Sally in regard to putting a pamphlet in with appointment letter - i.e., the importance of the assessor/qualifications.

Items for Next Agenda:

      -State Land Transition Assessments

      -County Assessing

      -Training (more detail)

      -Web-Content

      - State Board functions - what's good / bad

    -Roll Section 6 Utility Unit

Next Meeting:
Thursday September 13, 2007 / 1:00PM - 5:00PM, and
Friday September 14, 2007 / 8:30AM - 12:00PM

LOCATION: Clarion Hotel, 3 Watervliet Ave. Ext. Albany, New York 12206

Updated: