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Department of Taxation and Finance

REAL PROPERTY TAX ADMINISTRATION

MINUTES
Thursday, September 13, 2007 (1:00pm-5:30pm)
Clarion Hotel, 3 Watervliet Ave Ext. Albany, New York 12206

Facilitator: Dave Leichenauer
Recorders: Lori Monell, Rebecca Johnson
Assessors: Tom Frey, Rick Hubner, Patrick Duffy, William Quick, Larry Quinn, Cathy Conklin
County Directors: Kathy Myers, Carol Holley, Michael Swan, Jim Gonyo
ORPS: Steve King, Jim O'Keeffe, Dick Harris, Tim Maher, Dennis Jersey, Tom Bellard
Others: Timothy Sheares, Curt Schoeberl, Geoff Gloak, Sally Cooney, Maureen Wetter, Cyndy Knox, Ken Tompkins, Kim Manley, Joan Wiech, Jeff Green, Paul Miller, Alan Kresge

Dave Leichenauer opened the meeting by welcoming everyone. He introduced the guest recorders as Lori Monell and Rebecca Johnson. Both are RPA trainees as well as Joan Wiech who was also present at this meeting. Dave had the trainees introduce themselves and tell where they were presently working.

Getting Organized: Dave asked for RPTAC to approve the June minutes. The minutes will need one correction to a comment captured from Patrick Duffy. Patrick's comment on page three at the end of paragraph five, should read, "He feels basically it is saying without countywide assessing, you do not have a professional assessor." Dave will make the change and publish the June minutes.

Open Action Item(s) from June: #89 - Jim O'Keeffe will share the 2007-08 spending plan with Tom and Mike once approved. (Plan has not been approved yet.)

New Topics: Rick Hubner would like to find some time to discuss Volume 6. It was agreed that they will find time at Friday's meeting.

Leadership Updates: Steve King started off by saying that he hopes to have some clarity soon regarding spending plans, budget updates from the Governor's office.

Rick Hubner announced that it will be Patrick Duffy's last RPTAC meeting. He thanked him for doing a fine job.

Dave Leichenauer stated that there are two County Director membership changes. John McCarey and Caryn Kolts will be replaced by David Jackson (Westchester Co.) and Robin Johnson (Ontario Co.).

County Assessing: Rick Hubner started off by saying that there seems to be a strong sentiment that a discussion be continued regarding County Assessing. Rick stated that soon after last quarter's meeting, a grant program has come out and he would like to know why this was not shared earlier. Was it in the works? Why were they not told about it beforehand? Is there going to be more information shared regarding the application process?

Steve King answered that the process of the grant program is defined on our ORPS website. There is a mailbox for Questions and Answers and they have not had many coming in. The application process is less complex than other grant programs. It is a good incentive to get counties on board with assessing.

Rick Hubner asked "Are there specifics? Is there a true study?"

Steve King answered that there is a list of elements on our ORPS website showing the different aspects of payments.

A discussion continued to take place and Steve King and Jim O'Keeffe provided them with answers. There still are some concerns and confusion about the wording of the grant process and the guidelines. There was some talk about taking their concerns to the commission.

Patrick Duffy ask the question "What will the structure of ORPS look like if they go to county assessing? Are there any plans to re-structure?

Steve King answered that there could be changes, no one knows right now.

Jim O'Keeffe referred everyone to the ORPS website to get more clarification on the wording of the guidelines for the grant process.

Action Item #93: Clarify Questions & Answers on the ORPS website. Provide more Grant Program details for the County Directors. (Jim O'Keeffe, ORPS staff)

Legislative Update: Paul Miller provided two handouts. One handout was the 2007 RPT Related Bills of Interest-Status as of 9/12/07 which passed both houses. The second handout was the 2007 RPT Related Bills of Interest-Status as of 8/1/07 which did not pass both houses which included new bills of interest and other bills of interest. He briefly went over both handouts and asked if there were any questions.

Paul stated that Joe Gerberg will have the Legislative summary available online by Monday, Sept. 17, 2007.

Assessor Training: Sally Cooney started off by handing out 4 handouts. The first handout was "Count of Uncertified in Tracked Training Programs". She announced that there are changes being done to the training program to take effect October 1, 2007.

The second handout was the "Communication Plan: Ethics Recertification and New Basic Program for 2007". The ORPS website is in the process of being updated and the new requirements will be posted on the internet by Monday, September 17, 2007.

Rick Hubner asked for an update on the courses being developed for the new basic course of training.

Cyndy Knox explained handout 3 "Number of Offerings from June 2006 - October 2007" and handout 4 "New Certification Programs for Assessors and County Directors are Effective October 1, 2007".

The new courses (and their status):
Fundamentals of Data Collection - done
Fundamentals of Assessment Administration - will be done by January '08
Ethics - NYSAA is developing course
Cost, Market and Income Approach - NYSAA is developing course
Farm Appraisal - will be done by Spring '08
Forest Valuation- will be done in 2009
Commercial and Industrial Appraisal - looking for equivalent

Rick Hubner would like to know what courses are required in the first year.

Maureen Wetter referred him to Handout 4- "New Certification Programs for Assessors and County Directors are Effective October 1, 2007 which explains the breakdown of Year One, Year Two and Year Three.

Cyndy and Maureen are hoping that the Dept. of State will have more offerings of some of the valuation courses.

There is a minimum enrollment of 10 to hold a class or else the class may be cancelled. The online courses tend to fill quickly.

Rick Hubner asked if EDS can look into having the training history available on line for all the assessors, county directors, etc.

Cyndy responded by saying that we may be able to accomplish this by using the new Learning content Management System. However, she is currently devoting her time to curriculum development and won't be able to pursue this for a year or so.

State Land Transition Assessments: Sally Cooney handed out 2 handouts. The first handout was "Transition Assessments on State Land and the second handout was a spreadsheet "Town ABC-Simulated Transition Assessment Calculation for Current Year (2007) Assessment Roll. A copy of the Town of Warwick's Transition Assessment Report was also distributed.

Ken Tompkins explained each handout and how the transition assessments are computed. There were some long discussions about the small amounts that some assessors get for a transition assessment. Was it even worth doing? There was also some discussion about stumpage.

Sally Cooney replied that statute requires the approval of all transition assessments regardless of the value.

Rick Hubner suggested that maybe they should lobby to change the rules and offered some other suggestions.

Jim Gonyo gave some suggestions to Ken Tompkins to help simplify the process.

Kim Manley stated that transition assessments are recalculated every year therefore they must be zeroed out each year. They are looking into a way for RPS to have them automatically zeroed out by using the correct property class code; however, this only works if the assessors use the correct code. Dennis Jersey and Sally Cooney will look into a better process to do this.

William Quick suggested that we add a section on Transition Assessments to Assessment Administration training.

Sales Net: Tim Maher handed out a 2 page handout for SalesNet explaining what SalesNet is. The handout included a NY map with all the counties shaded in red who use the SalesNet application. We presently have 20 counties using this application. Tim explained the advantages of using the SalesNet program. There were some questions asked about the .50 cents per form that the counties receive. Many thought that was not enough because it costs them more to process each one.

STAR Rebate Update: Tim Maher handed out a 2 page handout. The first page was a letter that is going to go out to all property owners explaining the steps to take to apply for your Middle Class STAR rebate. The second page had an attached form that will need to be filled out by the property owner(s) and sent in or you can apply online. So far, approx. 76% of property owners have applied online which is a higher than expected number. The online application is a fairly easy process to do.

Rick Hubner handed out "Additions/Deletions/Changes to 2007 Middle Class STAR Rebate recipients". This was a notice that Geoff Gloak sent out to the NY Assessment Community from David Ange-ORPS Manager regarding the Middle Class Star Program. Rick was concerned with communication on how this information is getting out to LISTSERV. Some people don't even look at LISTSERV and may not be getting this important information. Some suggestions were made and some constructive criticism was given to Tim so ORPS can have a better process or better system.

Curt Schoeberl brought to Tim Maher's attention that the excel spreadsheet online in the instructions (in red) appear to say that you are only entitled to one exemption. That is not correct.

Tim Maher will look into this and make the correction. Tim reminded everyone that the deadline is November 30, 2007 to apply for the Middle Class STAR rebate.

Tim Maher handed out 2 more handouts. The first one was "Calculation of STAR Exemption Amounts" and the second one was "Assessed Value and Full Value of Basic STAR Exemptions for Cities and Towns in Dutchess County.

Tim explained page by page how the STAR exemption amounts were calculated. He used the example in handout #2 for Dutchess County. All questions were answered. There was some discussion with Assessors/County Directors giving examples with issues that they have had in their Town or County. Some feel that the STAR program has not worked great.

Action Item #94: ORPS will correct the online spreadsheet (in red), clarifying the instructions around exemptions. (Tim Maher)

Wrap up: Dave reviewed action items #93 and #94 for clarity.

Steve King announced that Dave Leichenauer will be retiring as facilitator for RPTAC. This 2 day meeting will be Dave's last session. Steve wanted to thank Dave for a fine job.

RPTAC- Day 2 of 2
September 14, 2007
8:30am - 11:45pm
Clarion Hotel, 3 Watervliet Ave Ext. Albany, New York 12206

Attendees:

Assessors: Cathy Conklin, Tom Frey, Rick Hubner, Patrick Duffy, William Quick, Larry Quinn,
County Directors: Kathy Myers, Carol Holley, Michael Swan, Jim Gonyo
ORPS: Jim O'Keeffe, Dick Harris, Tim Maher, Don Card, Steve King
Others: Curt Schoeberl, Timothy Sheares, Colleen Adamec, Jeff Green, Steve Beals, Alan Kresge, Dave Shanley, Geoff Gloak, Steve Harrison
Facilitator: Dave Leichenauer
Recorders: Michael Fouassier, Meighan Reed

Getting Organized: Dave recapped Thursday's action item of clarifying the website content.

Topic H: Sub-Group Activity Updates: 

  • Dave directed the respective sub-group leaders to report out on current membership, activity, and relevancy of charters to appropriate cause. Examination of these reports will determine if each sub-group should continue to exist or suspend activity.  
    • Equalization Project Team- Tim Maher
      • Tim addressed RPTAC on action item #67, accompanied by a handout to summarize the status of the previously charged evaluation of PDC.
      • The sub-group met in a joint effort with the valuation team on July 11, 2007 and decided that the focus should be to increase the inherent understanding of the PDC-process through six ORPS-mediated training sessions to be implemented in late October.
      • Tim mentioned that he felt the group has been somewhat handicapped by meeting only quarterly. It has been hard to maintain cohesiveness with the infrequency of meetings. In addition, it would be beneficial to meet collaboratively with the Valuation Team twice a year, if possible.
      • Team membership issues: HK Lo has replaced Jim O'Keeffe and although Bob Diener is not currently employed by the County, he is tentatively still considered a member.
      • Team charter issues: Rick Hubner believed that the charter should be relevant to the current issues, and the main focus of the sub-group should at least be mentioned accordingly.

        Action Item #95: A review of the Equalization Project Team's Charter will be included on the agenda for their next meeting. (Tim Maher / Hung Kay Lo)  

      • Tom Frey questioned whether or not the PDC should be part of the process outlined in the charter. Suggested that it would be overwhelming to include all process items.
      • Curt Schoeberl had concern that the numbers for revaluations are not accurate, and that it is very difficult to help property owners understand the translation of a lag in the market to the dollar amount attached to their assessment. If the market is going down, the assessed values still appear to rise as a consequence of this market lag. It has proved to be a compromising issue for the assessment community to deal with.
      • Jim Gonyo agreed and added that although the timeframe is certainly relevant, the property owners aren't likely to recall the changes in the market from a year ago.
      • Tim Maher believed that education is the answer. In addition it is difficult to generalize any aspect of the market as there is much diversity in New York State.
      • Curt Schoeberl mentioned the presence of a split market in his town; the lower end homes are still affordable, yet the higher end homes are going up.
      • Jim Gonyo explained that lower value homes are in fact appreciating fairly well. He said that lake front and high end homes are being affected either by slowing appreciation or losing value.
      • Cathy Conklin wanted to know from where the statistics contained in the Uniform Standard originated?
      • Geoff Gloak credited the corresponding footnotes at the end of the document.
      • Steve Beals insisted that ORPS does reconcile trends by area as much as possible. There are variables in the statistical models which account for this.
      • Curt Schroebel pointed out that the COD study in RPS gives an average of sales price and market price.
      • Geoff Gloak added that there has been some discussion, (possibly per Dave Williams-not present,) of the usefulness of the data originating from the realtors.
      • Cathy Conklin expressed frustration that logistically, if everyone is measuring the same sales, the numbers should at least be similar. She had experienced a significant discrepancy in trending percentages (one study at 5%, the other doubled at 10%).
      • Steve Beals explained that different people use different systems for their trending studies, and although ORPS supports median price as the best avenue, there is also some risk there for skewed trending results.
      • Tim Maher agreed that there should not be such variance in trending data, and that the Valuation Team should explore the major differences between ORPS' data and realtors' data.
      • Tom Frey was concerned that after the data is received on the county level, that trending numbers are significantly altered. He gave the example of school districts that cross county lines- one is at 12% while the other is at 6%, but they are representative of the same market. He wondered if there was a way to analyze the market on its own, and not just according to county data.
      • Tim Maher and Steve Beals offered a thorough explanation of the 9 trends used to improve the processing of county data, and the adjustments effectively made as a result.  
    • Sales Process Team- Tim Maher
      • Tim gave a brief history of the sub-group, and it's origination in 2005. The team has not met since April, 2006 due to complex differences on the county level. Also, ORPS' commitment to the rebate program has been a priority, and temporarily replaced precedence of team meetings.
      • Larry Quinn believed that this team could not initiate anything cohesive to its charge.
      • Jim O'Keeffe reciprocated that until a statewide initiative is posed, this team is "spinning its wheels". For example, the push to get 5217s on the web will undoubtedly happen someday, but it is not an issue that is currently on the horizon. Furthermore, this team in not the appropriate vehicle to do so.
      • Rick Hubner pointed out that recording of sales is a process that everyone uses. Statistically, 76% of STAR recipients applied for their rebate online. There should at least be a plan to implement a long term solution, regardless of the imminence of its execution.
      • Tom Frey moved to reconstitute the team, since it has been relatively inactive as of late. Revision of charter and examination of membership would be appropriate. Bill Quick recommended that a county clerk be appointed to the new team.

        Action Item #96: The Sales Process Team will meet to decide the next appropriate steps considering RPTAC's recent recommendations. (Tim Maher) 

    • Valuation Issues Team - Steve Beals
      • Membership issues: Steve Beals has replaced Bob Aiken
      • In response to previous discussion surrounding Equalization Project Team, the following issues will be addressed:  
        1. Team will look into trending issues with median price
        2. Team will meet collaboratively with Equalization Project Team in October with a tentative teleconference to follow.
        3. Team will address updates of charter and membership. Current team purpose seems sufficient for the time being.   
      • Colleen Ademec mentioned the main concern she identified is the conversion from the Boeckh Model to the Marshall and Swift Model for valuation. There is a need to improve assessor's confidence in ORPS as a result of this new system.
      • Patrick Duffy pointed out that the Property Class Code Committee has not recently met, and there have been no requests made for new PCCs. This is an issue that constantly needs addressing to effectively facilitate the job of the assessor. Volume 6 has not sufficiently kept up with the changes in the market. There is a pressing need to comprehensively review and update Volume 6. He suggested either including this in the charges of the Valuation Team, or possibly creating a new sub-group to deal with its implementation.
      • Tim Maher suggested that the Valuation Team examine the issue and advise accordingly at the next RPTAC session.
      • Patrick Duffy insisted that the need for this update is non-negotiable, and there should be no discussion regarding its urgency, only the avenue by which it will be completed.
      • Steve Beals expressed his concern that this will be a huge, time consuming undertaking.
      • Rick Hubner suggested that a "shopping list" of needed improvements be formulated, and a group should be appointed to determine priority and appropriate focus on what is most important.

        Action Item #97:Movement to charge Tom Bellard (not present) and CVSU to head the Volume 6 initiative, with advisory roles played by Kathy Glannon, PCC Committee, Valuation Team and Steve Beals.  

      • Geoff Gloak mentioned that the Assessment Notification Team had accomplished its purpose, and should be deemed inactive for the time being.
      • Dick Harris questioned whether the PCC Committee should be merged with the valuation team?
      • It was decided that the two entities should remain separate.
      • Kathy Myers thought the PCC Committee should be examining PCC definitions as well as designating new ones.
      • Patrick Duffy noted that this had been done about 3 years ago, but needs to be an ongoing process.   

Topic I: Public Education / Information:

  • This subgroup has been in existence for approximately one and one-half years.
  • Mike Swan explained that the subgroup responsibilities were to acquire information and suggestions from the assessment community and report back to RPTAC. In November of 2006 there was outreach where themes, general areas and comments were collected. In addition, public outreach was collectively decided to be the most important element of the subgroup and a spreadsheet of relevant resources was compiled.
  • Jeff Green added that the information already gathered is now being brought to RPTAC to be expanded upon and refined.
  • Mike Swan and the subgroup members handed the spreadsheet out to RPTAC members and posed the following question: After having collected the feedback necessary to move forward, where do we go from here? It is agreed that there is a critical mass of information, but that it now needs to make its way to the public.
  • Jeff Green reminded RPTAC that there are a number of good ideas that came out of our public information / education brainstorming exercise. We have a lot of ideas left to explore. From adult education classes to a marketing plan for our spreadsheet. RPTAC needs to go deeper into more of these issues and not just move on having developed the spreadsheet. The spreadsheet is a great start, but, on its own it will not solve the public information / education issue.
  • Dave Leichenauer repeated the question first asked by Mike Swan as to what the next step would be.
  • Rick Hubner insisted that there is so much information overload already available to the public. Taxpayers are only interested in the particulars when it directly affects their tax bills. Rick suggested that perhaps the counties should be more involved with outreach and that a Public Information Officer at the county level could be valuable. He also recognized that while some assessors are excellent at their work, they have little or lacking skills when it comes to public relations. If a PIO at the local or county level is not a possibility, it would be beneficial to at least have a position in the regional offices.
  • Dick Harris asked whether or not the subgroup has a marketing plan template to jump start this campaign.
  • Jeff Green responded that the subgroup has not yet taken those steps. Initially charged to gather data and information, the subgroup was unsure as to how much further it should go.
  • Mike Swan added that the subgroup was hesitant to go beyond what it was originally charged to do.
  • Lawrence Quinn asked whether or not there was any grant money available to fund this project?
  • Dave Leichenauer said that Dave Williams may be a resource to find out about grants.
  • Geoff Gloak added that Tom Frey was also researching grant availability with the IAAO. In addition, he believed that the RPT Equity Outreach Team was a team created to gather data, produce a report, and help RPTAC prioritize issues to be addressed. He asked what the subgroup's next priorities should be, as the PR issue had now been addressed. According to the previous survey among RPTAC members, the next course of action should pertain to State Aid and the Reassessment Cycle.
  • Curt Schoeberl advocated for a one-on-one between the tax payers and the assessor. He suggested that the information contained on the spreadsheet would prove to be a good aid in answering specific taxpayer questions. The subgroup's spreadsheet of resources should be shared with everyone in the assessment community but there should not be a mass education in classrooms or public meetings.
  • Mike Swan responded by saying that the public, especially town officials, should be informed of all the processes involved along the way.
  • Rick Hubner agreed with Mike and suggested that people should be aware of what is taking place throughout the year.
  • Tim Maher recommended that a new group look to further the work done around the information / education issue by this subgroup. He suggested that we need to continue down this path.
  • Mike Swan added that this is the beginning of a marketing plan. It is not comprehensive but is what could initiate the plan for going forward.
  • Cathy Conklin mentioned that the IAAO once possessed a library of resources and that perhaps the subgroup spreadsheet should be posted online on a web library. General publications can also be maintained there.
  • Rick Hubner responded by saying that since there is already so much on the web to look through, we would have to create a logical, well organized site to be effective. He suggested that we categorize the ORPS' website to make the information more easily accessible to the taxpayers.

    Action Item #98: The creation of a RPTAC Public Information sub-group to be comprised of three ORPS representatives, (including Geoff Gloak, Patty Valvo and Mary Ilacqua) two representatives of the assessment community, and two representatives at the County level. It was generally agreed upon that this would be acceptable and that RPTAC would charge the new group with directives, inclusive of implementing a marketing plan targeted at distribution of the information gathered by the Outreach Group and RPTAC's "brainstorming ideas" around information / education.  

  • Rick Hubner believed the new sub-group should create a draft charter and report back to RPTAC to discuss it in further detail, as well as a report on the sub-group's efforts.. He recommended the group keep in mind the relative passive nature of the available information, and focus on effective PR for public officials.

Topic J: Follow-up on Action Items from the Assessor's Outreach Sessions:

  • Dave Leichenauer introduced the next prioritized issue to be pursued by the subgroup. Does RPTAC still agree that State Aid and the Reassessment Cycle be the most relevant topic to next pursue?
  • Mike Swan and Cathy Conklin proposed moving onto a topic that is within the control of RPTAC. State Aid and Reassessment issues are heavily influenced by legislative control, and are perhaps better dealt with in other ways.
  • Bill Quick added that at this time there was not a sufficient number of RPTAC members present to move forward with next topics.
  • Mike Swan and Jeff Green agreed and suggested that perhaps the following RPTAC session would be more appropriate due to the absences and substitutions.
  • Tim Maher also recommended returning with a larger RPTAC group at the January session to decide the next topic area.
  • At the January session RPTAC will determine the next issue to work on. It will be one of the top four issues previously prioritized by RPTAC. This is exclusive of the training issues which RPTAC assigned to the Training Governance Group (TGG). Cathy Conklin suggested that all the data pertinent to the training issue be sent to her prior to the October 18th TGG meeting. That way she will be able to bring up the topic for discussion at their next meeting.
  • Carol Holley at that time proposed a meeting that would exclude State ORPS members to discuss county wide assessing. She explained that the Assessor's Association, as well as the County Director's Association, hold group meetings to discuss the implications of the county consolidation direction and that the RPTAC participants should do the same.
  • It was agreed upon that this directive is not an appropriate issue to be dealt with at RPTAC.

Dave Leichenauer ended the session with a farewell as this is his final RPTAC facilitation. Dave mentioned that the next RPTAC session would be on January 17th and 18th and that the following topics would be discussed then:

  • Public Information
  • Trade Secrets
  • Next Topic for Outreach Group
  • Sales Web
  • Volume 6 Issues

Next Meeting:
Thursday January 17, 2007 / 1:00pm - 5:00pm, and
Friday January 18, 2007 / 8:30am - 12:00pm

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

Updated: