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Department of Taxation and Finance


Thursday –October 15, 2009 (1:00pm – 5:30pm)
Friday – October 16, 2009 (8:30am- 11:50pm

 Facilitator: Alan Kresge
Recorder: Bonnie Hellum

Day 1 - Thursday, October 15, 2009
Assessors: Christine Fusco, Tom Frey, Sue Otis, Randy Holcomb, Peggy Jenkins, Curtis Schoeberl
County Directors: David Hastings, Robin Johnson, Tim Murphy, Laura Vanvalkenburg, Mike Swan
ORPS: Lee Kyriacou, Vic Mallison, Tom Bellard, Dave Williams, Tim Maher, Sally Cooney, Jim O'Keeffe, Gayle Everitt, Geoff Gloak

Get Organized: Alan Kresge.
The next one or two meetings may be at ORPS or the Alfred E. Smith building, or the DOT in Schenectady.

Action Item #36:Find meeting location (Alan Kresge)

  1. Introductions, none.
  2. Review minutes from last meeting and finalize. Robin Johnson requested that Alan add to the minutes that “the state board did not give us direction about the Uniform Assessment Code.”
  3. Review agenda and make necessary changes. Robin Johnson requested that a discussion on changing the Basic STAR application form be added. She wants to add to the application an affirmation that the applicant is not getting a STAR exemption on another parcel.
  4. Action Items from last meeting reviewed. #31, #32, #33, and #34 were completed. #35 is going out tomorrow.

Action Item #37:Fix minutes (Alan Kresge)

Action Item #38:Jim O'Keeffe and others will discuss modified STAR application in-house.

Action Item #39:Automate STAR exemption process—ideas. (For all processes, not just STAR) (Tim Maher)

  1. Uniform Assessment Standards-Jim O'Keeffe
    The document was shared at the assessor's conference. Tom Frey had asked for comments on it. Some were more specific than the document was meant to address. Tom is giving them until the end of October to make comments.
    This document will be changed again. It is intended to address big-picture questions. It is a set of standards that any assessing unit could adopt. The board will be adopting it as "best practices." It is a stand-alone document, it is not requirements, and it will not be imposed on any public official.
    Towns do not officially adopt this. We have moved away from the word "code," and will use "standards." It is not like "building code."
    Lee said that it is "good practice," and to avoid saying "best practice."
    Tom Frey said there are still some blank spots to fill in.
    Lee said that we have figured out how to pull away the things that were causing disagreement. Find what unites us around these standards.
    Curt Schoeberl said that there is no mention of statistical triggers. The COD standard is not addressed. Should it be? 1.6 or 1.7--- what if a town's COD and ratio are good, and they did a reassessment four years ago? We are talking more about quantity than quality. Quality has to be in there.
    Tom wants to give his membership a chance to comment and will put the document together after that.
    Jim said that a report on the status of this is on the agenda for the Nov. 10 state board meeting. A smaller RPTAC group can reconvene to work on it.
    Sue Otis said that this document should come back to RPTAC periodically for review. "We need to fill in some holes."
    The smaller group will meet after the board meeting and before the January RPTAC meeting.
    Tom said that governing bodies and municipal boards will use this document. It is not for the average taxpayer or even the average town board member. It can educate a town board as to what they're supposed to be doing.
    Four issues to be addressed by the smaller group:
    1. Defensible assessments
    2. 2.9.2 – on-site inspection
    3. 1.7 appraisals
    4. 1.4 to define reconstruction/reproduction

    The group will be led by ORPS staff.

    Action Item #40:A small group will fill in the blanks on the Uniform Assessment Standards. (Jim O'Keeffe) 

  2. Training rules—Latest Amendments-Jim O'Keeffe and Sally Cooney
    Jim said that the group met last week and discussed three sets of rules. The reimbursement rules are in effect and are out for public comment before being acted on by the board. Another set of rules is on the November board meeting agenda for a go-ahead for formal adoption. Addition of reassessment course to the regular basic course of training. He has gotten negative comments about this. He wants feedback now.
    Tom Frey reported on Cathy Conklin's comment—"This is not the right time. Reimbursement for this is questionable, and it would add to local governments' burden right now. A lot of this material is covered in other components; it's not necessary right now. This is not a time to create more requirements that local governments will have to spend money on."
    Mike Swan said that this is covered up in his region.
    Sue Otis said that this course is redundant; it is already dealt with on the county or regional level. "What is different about this course?" she asked.
    Dave Williams said that the course is about how to deal with contractors, town boards, newspapers, taxpayers, etc. He envisions more material on managing the reval, not just valuing property.
    Sally said that they are talking about having this course ready by January 2011. It will be a two- to three-day course.
    Lee said he has had about 50 meetings with towns, and the decision to reassess is a town decision, involving the mayor, supervisors, etc. Some assessors are not sure how to do a reval. We need to take this off the table. The number one goal of the agency is to get everyone to Full Value assessing. 600+ towns have done a reval since 2005; they would be exempt from this training requirement. The others need to know what to do when the time comes.
    Sue Otis said this could be offered as an elective.
    Tom Frey asked how they could spend three days doing this.
    Laura Vanvalkenburg said that this is probably an easier course to write, and wondered if the state can mandate it before it's written.
    Mike Swan asked why county directors are not included. They need to know how to deal with vendors, etc., also; it's not just the assessors who need to know this.
    Lee does not want this as an elective.
    Dave Williams said that what Mike is talking about is an RPS course—how to value property, how to get comps.
    Dave Hastings said he doesn't know what the course would entail. "Serious training is needed in how to deal with the public and town boards during a reval," he said. "Get it going, then decide whether to make it mandatory."
    Lee said that maybe the training program should be restructured to assume that everyone will be doing Full Value assessing.
    Dave Williams said that what is new in this course are the other aspects of a reval—the 511 assessment disclosure process, advisory appraisals, what to do when data collecting a whole town. We recognize that there are pieces of the valuation that people already know.
    The way everything is set up, reassessment is treated like the exception to the rule. Reassessment should be the expected performance.
    Sue Otis said that the course needs to be written first; either it will survive as an elective, or look at making it a mandate. Don't do that first.
    Lee said that they will include vendor and assessor input into the course.
    Jim O'Keeffe said that there is a third set of rules, minimum qualifications for assessors and county directors previously taking training and showing mastery of topics. This will be replaced with a series of designations. These need more work, and will not be presented at November board meeting. He wants input from RPTAC members.
    Tom Frey relayed a comment from Cathy Conklin —"ORPS staff should be required to meet the same requirements." Robin Johnson said that maybe 15 county directors are retiring this year. Half of the county's assessors have full-time clerks. What may end up happening, is a clerk will work full time for one town, get certified in the candidate program, paid for by the municipality, and then go to another town as assessor positions open.
    Lee said we have to raise the bar, and not have someone be appointed and be there forever who can't do the work.
    There followed a lot of discussion on this topic.
    Jim O'Keeffe said that this is still before the training group, and it will be going back to the Training Governance group. "You'll hear in a week."  
  3. Assessment Disclosure-Dave Williams
    Dave said that he is still hearing about timing, content, discrepancy with the tax bill, etc. A lot of frustration that this just doesn't work. He wants the group's thoughts on this.
    Lee said that a reval will always have more grievances because of timing of notices.
    Vic Mallison said that the governor's office is pushing that there be no more unfunded mandates. Maybe this could be made more cost-efficient.
    Tom said that he believes there is such a thing as taxpayer responsibility.
    Lee said that a notice in May would be helpful—not just the assessment, but the Full Value and the effect on taxes.
    Christine Fusco said she has an annual town. "This notice is a bold-faced lie to taxpayers because it uses last year's levy and no special district charges. There should be nothing about taxes on that disclosure. Full Market Value is what's important."
    There was a lot of discussion on this topic.  

First Day Wrap-Up: Alan Kresge reviewed the action items.

Day 2 - Friday, October 16, 2009

Assessors: Christine Fusco, Tom Frey, Sue Otis, Randy Holcomb, Peggy Jenkins, Curtis Schoeberl
County Directors: David Hastings, Robin Johnson, Tim Murphy, Laura Vanvalkenburg, Mike Swan, John McCarey
ORPS: Lee Kyriacou, Tom Bellard, Dave Williams, Tim Maher, Sally Cooney, Jim O'Keeffe, Gayle Everitt, Geoff Gloak, Paul Miller, Joe Gerberg

Get Organized:
Alan Kresge reviewed the agenda; there were no changes or additions.

      1. Valuation Issues Team--Tim Maher reporting for Steve Beals. The team is working on the rewrite of Data Collection Manual Vol. 6, and will be done by fall of 2010. The team has some new members.
      2. Sales Processing Team met in June. -- Automated 5217 Project. The bar coding pilot project in Dutchess Co. is going slow. They may start it in a couple other counties, such as Orange.
      3. Property Class Codes—no report
      4. Public Education Sub-group—Randy Holcomb said they got the survey out to members, got their responses, made seven recommendations and got good feedback. He asked RPTAC where they want to go with this committee now. Geoff Gloak suggested doing a summary of the 90-page report and adding this to the agenda for next time.
      5. Equalization Project Team—they will have a meeting next week. 
    2. RPS Fees Tim Maher handed out "RPS Fees." He said the fee structure should be a combination of factors. There are 800 installations of RPS across the state. This is costly, especially the support we provide. We encourage localities to get support from each other or from their county.
      There is installation plus a per-parcel fee, and discounts. At a teleconference on Wednesday he will recommend a fee increase of 20 percent across the board for 2010, based on a new model. Twelve out of sixteen on RPS Governance voted "yes," two have not voted yet. The group voted to work to have a 2011 proposal ready for the March 2010 state board meeting.
      Our costs for RPS this year are between $5 and $6 million. Fees bring in about $1.3 million. The shortfall comes from the state.
      There followed much discussion on this topic.
      The other piece of RPS support is in IT. $180,000 out of $680,000 direct dollars of salaries go for RPS. Also $100,000 of overhead.
      Lee said that direct charges for RPS were $700,000 for the quarter they looked at. They will be doing this every quarter now, to get a handle on it.
      Tim said there are details to be worked out.   
    3. Level of Assessment and Equalization Rate Tolerance
      Tim passed out "Level of Assessment and Determination of State Equalization Rates," and gave a history of this topic and where it's going in the future. There have been far fewer complaints, he said.
      Is a 5 percent tolerance for all munis the right thing to do? He is recommending that it stay at 5 percent for 2010. Be thinking about the seven items on the handout for 2011.
      There followed a lengthy discussion of this topic.   
    4. Sub-Group Activity Updates  
    5. Budget Update—Vic Mallison said that ORPS is about to enter the budget submission request for next year and it is flat; there is no increase in anything, including aid. "You'll be seeing different faces over the next couple of years,” he said. "Several senior management have left." 

Governor Paterson announced his budget proposals yesterday--$3 billion in cuts to the budget, $1.3 billion of that to the aid program. STAR payments to munis are NOT affected by that, Vic said. School aid will be cut by 4-1/2 percent maximum. Unfunded mandates are not subject to a 10 percent cut, other programs are.

He and Lee asked the Division of Budget that the cuts not be made across the board, as they want to manage them.

Web links from ORPS's home page show the cuts by school district. 

  1. Legislative Update—Paul Miller passed out the status sheets, and indicated that all the RPT related bills passed by both Houses have already been acted on by the Governor and that Joe Gerberg has already produced the annual narrative summary of RPT related legislation enacted to date, which is available on the web under Legal Topics. He also indicated that there could still be more legislative action this year, especially since it appears that the Legislature may be returning to deal with budget deficits after election day. Geoff will provide a link to the website for the Legislative Summary information via listserve. 

Meeting Wrap-Up--Alan Kresge went through the Action Items.

Topics for next meeting include:

  • Uniform Assessment standards
  • Team Report out
  • Public Education Sub-group
  • Training Qualifications
  • Budget Report

Possible dates for next RPTAC meeting: January 28 & 29, 2010, location to be announced.