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Department of Taxation and Finance

REAL PROPERTY TAX ADMINISTRATION COMMITTEE

MINUTES
Thursday –April 29, 2010 (1:00 pm – 4:50 pm)
Friday – April 30, 2010 (8:30am- 12:00 pm)

Facilitator: Alan Kresge
Recorder: Bonnie Hellum

Day 1 - Thursday, April 29, 2010
Assessors: Cathy Conklin, Tom Frey, Sue Otis, Randy Holcomb, Peggy Jenkins, Christine Fusco.
County Directors: John McCarey, Robin Johnson, Tim Murphy, Mike Swan, Laura Van Valkenburg.
ORPS: Vic Mallison. Tom Bellard, Tim Maher, Pat Holland, Jim O'Keeffe, Paul Szwedo, Paul Miller, Joe Gerberg, Geoff Gloak, Sally Cooney.

Get Organized: Alan Kresge

    1. Review minutes from last meeting and finalize. The group finalized the minutes from the January 2010 meeting.
    2. Review agenda and make necessary changes. Alan reviewed the agenda and adjusted the order of some of the reports.
    3. Action Items Reviewed: Alan had sent out an electronic update this morning. He further updated page 6, the Action Items from the January 2010 meeting.

Action Item #41:Vic will get back to the group about what they can do to help with the merger—Vic will speak with each group individually.

Action Item #42:Paul Swzedo will send out the link to the NYS Archives page on electronic retention—Paul sent this out January 29.

Action Item #43:Review the STaR exemption form and add “or your spouse.” Add the question about a homestead exemption in another state—the forms are being completed, and there will be other changes also. Approval from the legislature will be needed.

Action Item #44:find out how the valuation is done on multi-parcel farm sales—Tim turned this over to the Valuation Issues Team; they will discuss this tomorrow.

Action Item #45:problems with online filing—Completed. Alan sent out two documents about this. We will discuss this topic tomorrow.

Action Item #46:Explore the way we do valuation of farms.—Valuation Issues Team will make a presentation about this topic.

Action Item #47:Explore the way we do valuation of farms.—Valuation Issues Team will make a presentation about this topic.

Action Item #48:Distribute electronic copies of Joe Gerberg's handout—sent to group February 1, 2010

Action Item #49:Pat Holland will talk to Greg Kidd about pending legislation regarding the STaR exemption and RPS. Any property valued at more than $1.5 million will not get a STaR exemption.—Completed and on the shelf, ready if this topic comes up again. 

    1. Uniform Assessment Standards—How do we make local officials and the public more aware of UAS? Tim gave out UAS handout. He said that late last year, these standards were developed by a sub-team. The State Board adopted them at their Feb. 2010 meeting. Now, how do we get these to ORPS staff, legislators, elected officials, assessors, county directors, etc.?
      1. John McCarey said to send a copy to all the mayors and town supervisors and have it published in county annual reports. Local towns can decide whether or not to adopt these.
      2. Send to all elected assessment officials.
      3. Christine Fusco said she has been promoting it on the Erie website. It is left up to assessors whether or not to use them. One assessor has used it so far.
      4. Sue Otis said it makes a difference how it's presented to local government. We don't want to be the strong arm of the law. Mike Swan said that there is already a lot of anti-state feeling out there now.
        Sue added that the standards will be seen as less of an unfunded mandate if the locals, rather than the state, handle it.
      5. The standards are out on the ORPS website.
        Sue said that an ORPS staffer went to the county assessors' meeting and asked them to comment on the standards, saying that they weren't going to fly.
      6. Present to county legislatures.
      7. Ask counties to adopt the UAS.
      8. ORPS needs to educate their employees about the contents of the UAS. Christine said that the group worked hard on this, and it was a collaborative project, she is proud of it, and she doesn't want it to look like we're against each other.
      9. Keep track of who is using the UAS and how it's working.
        Mike thinks we ought to see how it's received by the elected officials, then decide on whether or not to push it to the taxpayers. He said it will need a real soft sell.
        Vic asked if we should get the media involved. If they're asking about reassessment, give them the address of this document.
        The group said no.
        Mike said that down the road we may want to do that. Maybe we'll make a commitment about this at the fall meeting.
      10. Publish in newsletter (Assessor Central) Geoff Gloak said that he is working on an article for the Property Tax Monitor about the UAS. Is this going to be problem? It's about the background, how the standards may be used, and what they mean locally. The Tax Monitor goes to supervisors, mayors, assessors, directors, etc. He also asked if it would be helpful for assessors and directors to have a pamphlet.
        The group said NO, that's dangerous, as that would be all they'd read.
        Vic said that ORPS staff are a bit apprehensive, given this week's news reports. Some saw Lee as a strong advocate for equalization, transparency, and standards, and feel that these have been belittled by his departure. Vic said the agency will back off and let the locals push the UAS. He sees it as a positive that the locals will be out there working with the town boards, etc. We have replaced Lee with a collaborative, working relationship. We'll listen, and we need everyone to be on the same page.
        Tom Frey said he got an email from a CRM saying that ORPS was going to be teaching and pushing the UAS, attached to reassessment projects. He thought that was strange. The CRM emailed Vic, and it was all a misunderstanding. A correction email has not been sent. Tim said they're still working on that.
      11. Present to Town Boards at budget time.

List of Ideas: 

  1. Use of sales with AV reductions in calculation of RARs and equalization rates. Josette Polzella, Assessor, Town of Ossining, and Andy Jackson, former deputy tax commissioner in Westchester County, made a presentation about how the 2009 methods of calculating the RAR negatively affect towns that do not assess at 100 percent of value. The RAR is a major component of the eq rate. When Josette's RAR was 3.6 percent less than it should have been, her town lost $150,000 in SCAR tax refunds.
    She said the standard should be ?, as it is for IAAO. Some assessors are catching on to this when homeowners come to grievance, they take a SCAR petition to get a proper assessment.
    Andy said that assessments adjusted to the sale are being used to calculate the COD. He doesn't see how you can use anything but the assessment at the time of sale. He said that it's a mathematical problem and he thinks it can be corrected.
    Tim said that Josette had brought this topic to the eq team a few months ago. There are 2 separate methods of calculation, and it makes more sense to do just one.
    Sales Ratio Study—look at how assessments have changed prior to a sale. If there is a significant difference, you can't use the assessments after the time of the sale.
    Changes of a couple percent from the prior roll to the current roll are not significant enough to change the process. The tolerance in the eq rate calculation is plus or minus 5 percent, in agreement with Gloudeman's study. We have decided not to make changes.
    Josette said she thinks the 3.6 percent is a problem. With the SDs, the spread could be even greater. She doesn't understand why ORPS wouldn't use the assessed value at time of sale.
    Tim said that we use multiple years of sales, bringing it up to the current LOA. Josette said that the problem is the SCAR cases, because they are based strictly on the RAR. One out of four residential properties grieve in Nassau. SCAR refunds are going to be outweighing cert refunds downstate.
    Tim said that ORPS's mission is to make a good eq rate and a good RAR, not a great COD. ORPS is also doing CAMA studies, using the same assessments as the RARs.
    Andy said not to publish the CODs.
    Vic said that there's no science here. We're talking about things at the edges. We absolutely should have the tolerance, because there's no science. It's a good guessing game.
    Josette said that CODs should not be derived from sales-derived information.
    Tim said that in this time of limited resources better eq rates and an improved RPS are more important.
    Josette said that measuring the COD is a critical number and we have to have these. Otherwise, the numbers are leading and artificial.
    Tim said that this topic has been in front of the eq team, and most found the current methodology to be adequate.
    Josette said the differences are philosophical.

    Action Item:Josette Polzella and Andy Jackson will be invited to the next eq sub-committee meeting. (Pat Holland)

    Action Item: UAS subcommittee members will reconvene before the end of the year.  

  2. Budget/Merger/Move Vic reported that the agency is moving regardless of the merger. June 25 is the last day at Sheridan Avenue; we will report to the office campus on June 28. If the budget, which includes the merger, is passed, we will be spread among 3 adjacent buildings, 9, 8, and 8A. In a non-merge scenario, all ORPS staff will be in 8A. We have a firm commitment from T & F that we won't be asked to take on their work, with the exception of the IT people. There will be no affect on the regional offices at first. Over time, as leases expire on the regional office buildings, those staff may be put into regional T & F offices. T & F management has been supportive and helpful. They are footing the bill for all this.

    Geoff explained the Culture Team. This is a big shift for our employees. We're going from a small, family-like agency to one of more than 5,000 people. He and Tim and the Culture Team meet with T & F to work on personnel and HR aspects. The biggest concern on the survey was where we would be moving, but otherwise staff felt moderately to slightly positive about the merger.

    Vic knows that RPTAC is concerned about access to ORPS; he has a commitment that our service level to the public and your access to us will not be diminished at all. The ORPS website will stay up. Our travel budget is down.

    Tim said that senior managers from Tax went with him out to the regions and listened to concerns from staff there.

    Sue is not happy with the move; she said it is 300 people getting swallowed up by 5,000 people in 3 buildings. It sounds impossible to her.

    Vic said that if someone calls our old numbers, there will be a message saying what the new number is. All email addresses will be changed. The computer systems are moving June 18.

    Tom Frey said that his members are concerned about access to legal. One of his members was told she had to email them, rather than call.

    Vic said that the May and June State Board meetings will be at ORPS, and the July meeting will be on the campus in Building 8. T & F is wary of allowing the public into the building. People will be escorted. There is free parking there. If it doesn't work out, we'll find someplace else.

    Sue asked about the RPTAC meetings. Will we be allowed to meet at T & F? Vic said we probably can. We can have public meetings if we know who is coming and have a sign-in sheet.

    Vic said that we have a different core mission than Tax does. We have a collaborative relationship with the public, which we need to get our work done. Tax knows that.

    Sue said that the assessment community is not aware of that.

    Sue said Tax turned off their phones in response to the STaR rebate program.

    Fusco said the problem was the whole process of the rebate program, not just T & F's part.

    Mike Swan said it wasn't T & F's fault. They had no staff to deal with it. They did the best they could with an extremely bad situation.

    Vic said that in yesterday's news the Governor proposed $600 million in new savings. Asking the legislature to pass a furlough. The Legislature is saying NO. The Governor said he will put it in the extender bill—either take a furlough day or shut down the government. There is a $30 million savings for each furlough day. The Governor is looking for $250 million. That's a maximum of 8 furlough days, for non-M/C titles, and CSEA and PEF titles. ORPS's senior managers talked about this yesterday. Our day to close is Friday, May 14.

  3. Legislative Update Joe Gerberg said that the center of attention is on the budget; not much else is happening. The two big pieces of RPT-related legislation are the merger and the transparency proposal. He passed out the current version of “Compromise Language for 2010-11 Executive Budget Art. VII,” which has been scaled back. We will not ask for information prior to tentative roll date. It scales back section 511 so that it is not as burdensome; assessment disclosure notices will be required only where the eq rate is less than 85. Another issue was having data filed with ORPS at the time of the tentative roll. This is agreeable, and was put into an alternate proposal. Two provisions were added--we are OK with what two special assessing units are doing (511 doesn't work for them), and towns have to submit tentative roll data to ORPS and post it on their website, if they have one. 

Joe expects this version to be submitted as a replacement for those specific parts of the bill. Tax & Finance is happy with the way this turned out, and he thanked ORPS for hearing the concerns of county directors and assessors. Pat Holland said that 150 tentative rolls have already been filed with ORPS.

The group discussed posting tentative rolls on the web, and everyone was OK with it.

Two other lesser budget provisions—

  1. Electronic 5217s—coordinate with T& F to combine forms. The Senate and Assembly are OK with this.
  2. Full Value Aid Program—up to $5/parcel aid for reval if the muni commits to doing a second reval within four years. Senate and Assembly are OK with this.

    Joe expects both of these to go through. Both STaR proposals are almost certainly dead.

Merger Legislation—ORPS is to be merged with T & F, the State Board eliminated, and the reviews given to the Tax Tribunal. We will be a unit within T & F—the Office of Real Property Tax Services. The Senate and Assembly are OK with the merger except for the elimination of the Board. They want to keep the review function with the board. This proposal is on the table. The second floor is OK with this. The Assembly has completed 99 percent of the work, now they're just tweaking it. Joe thinks this will go through, with the State Board retained for review functions.

Vic said he will be relieved if it goes through the way it is written. We want to continue to push policy the way we do now, through the board, RPTAC, etc.

Handout—2010 RPT-Related Bills of Interest

Referring to chapter 43 of the Laws of 2010, which requires open meetings to be accessible to the media, Jim O'Keeffe noted how this differs from the standard procedures of T&F at the campus.

Paul Miller explained that violations of the “Bruno bill” are a Class E felony.

White sheet of handout-- 29 of these bills are through one house of the legislature. One bill is the STaR rebate restoration, which Paul said is rather alarming. There is not much else of note. Paul went over some of the bills. The ones on page 3 are nearing passage. The new bills are on page 4. The Governor's Program #227 bill for Tax Levy Cap is on all jurisdictions, not just schools. These bills show up on the Governor's site.

Adjournment at 4:55 p.m.

Day 2 - Friday, April 30, 2010

Assessors: Cathy Conklin, Tom Frey, Sue Otis, Randy Holcomb, Peggy Jenkins, Christine Fusco
County Directors: John McCarey, Robin Johnson, Tim Murphy, Mike Swan, Laura Van Valkenburg.
ORPS: Vic Mallison. Tom Bellard, Tim Maher, Pat Holland, Jim O'Keeffe, Paul Swedo, Geoff Gloak, Sally Cooney.

Get Organized:
Alan Kresge asked for changes to the agenda. Robin Johnson said she would like an update on the Marshall Swift project.

?? clarified Action Item #45 by saying that we are working internally to get everything on the Internet, to make filing as paperless as possible. We cannot do everything Don Collins is asking.

Action Item #46:send a copy of Action Item #45 to Don Collins (Jim O'Keeffe)

    1.  
        1. Valuation Issues Team—Steve Beals passed out “Valuation Issues Team Report.” They are working on two ongoing Action Items. 1. Rewriting Volume 6. They are still in the Commercial section and are making progress. 2. Explore the way we do valuation of farms. The team discussed this at their March meeting. They want better direction from RPTAC—the previous directive was too broad. He also noted that RPS doesn't allow multiple parcel valuation, but there's a workaround. He is open to comments about farm valuation. Robin Johnson suggested they explore doing farm valuation as an entire economic unit, now that V5 is being done. 

      Action Item: Ag workaround, one page, put in assessor's manual. (Steve Beals) Steve said that Mark Twentyman is a proponent of doing income approach on farms. We can't do that with the software we have. This is an improvement opportunity for V5. Tom Frey thinks Don Collins and Jacob Kent, an auctioneer, real estate agent and appraiser of farm real estate, should sit with the valuation team.

      Action Item: Explore the possibility of having a farm database (valuation) for sales. (Valuation Issues Team) 

        1. Sales Processing Team: Pat Holland said this committee has not met in awhile. In January, the Westchester County clerk starting sending files electronically, and it's working very well. There's a bill out there about the electronic 5217. The team will meet soon.

       

        1. Property Class Code Team: Alan reported for committee member Reesa Guarino. There is nothing to update except membership.

        

        1. Public Education Sub-Group—included in their presentation.

       

      1. Equalization Project Team—the group met in January. The 5 percent tolerance is still a good idea. They had discussed PDC schedules and RAR calculations, and need more discussion on these. It will be difficult to schedule a meeting the next two months.

        Sue brought a complaint from an anonymous person, who said that the booklet of complaint forms is not being produced anymore. On one form it says that the forms are available in the assessor's office. The anonymous person wants this removed, as the forms are too voluminous for large munis to print.
        Robin Johnson brought up an issue that the Cornell Extension people have raised about sylvan pasturing—pasturing beef cattle in the woods. It is a different land type than the ag exemption for woodland. 

    2. RPS V5. Greg Kidd and Bill Godell presented information about RPS V5. They passed out “RPS V5 Project Status.” They put this team together in January. They are co-leading it for now. The team has met 8 or 9 times. They are putting the foundation documents together. They have researched how other states do business, as shown on the last page of the handout. They are looking at various systems. They have set up a list serve for V5.

      Greg went over the report and took questions. He does not think we have the resources to do this in-house. We may have a broader base when we merge. He thinks we will do part or all of this with the private sector.
      Bill disagrees, saying that we'll need consultants, but thinks that we have enough resources in-house if we reallocate.
      Tom Bellard said that Tax & Finance just did a $140 million project. Getting their attention for an $18 million project is going to be hard.
      Bill said there are a lot of unknowns with funding, resources and the merger. T & F has an IT department of more than 600 people. They are not shy about spending money when necessary. Greg thinks this will help us in the long run. We must have a stable, dependable funding stream for this project. This is not something we can start and stop.
      V4 cost between $8 million and $10 million. V 5 is not going to be cheap. How much the locals should put into it is an open question.
      Tom Frey asked why there are no local government users on the team.
      Greg said that the team was kept small intentionally because of the time constraints for getting the upfront work done. He has no problem with putting locals on the team.
      Mike Swan asked if the team will be analyzing the cost for counties to get up to speed to use this. These are tough times, and if he has to sell this to county administrators he needs to know where we're going, what equipment we'll need to buy, etc.
      Bill said that it is so preliminary, it's hard to say, but this concern will be spoken to.
      Laura Van Valkenburg asked how long the project will take.
      Greg said four to six years.
      Bill said that it is a new, web-based system, and we hope to be able to accept the pieces, tablets, etc.
      Robin Johnson asked about using Marshall and Swift instead of restructuring V4. The group said they would like an update on this topic with Kathy Glannon.  

    3. Training—Reassessment Course /Minimum Qualifications
      Reassessment Course-- Sally Cooney said she met with ORPS regional management in February, and they felt the Mass Appraisal course included a lot of the necessary information. Chris Bannister supplements it with further information when she teaches the course. Teresa Frank offered to review it. In March, the Training Advisory Committee met, and they are OK with that, as is the State Board.
      The reassessment course will be available as a continuing education course, not as a required course except as part of the basic training program.
      Minimum Qualification rules—Sally said there were not a lot of changes from her January report. She added, “Such experience under the direction of a state-certified assessor or county director occurring within three years of the start of the apprenticeship may be included in the apprenticeship.”
      This was brought to the Training Advisory committee in March.
      She had a teleconferencing call with Cathy Conklin and Shirley Bement three days ago and they asked to include “high school diploma” as a requirement for assessors and county directors.
      At the next Training Advisory meeting they will talk more about the apprenticeship and flesh it out. This affects new assessors and County Directors with a 10/1/13 appointment date.
      Certification for candidates for assessor is only coursework. The apprenticeship is mentoring, doing the work in a strict environment, and at the end of three years the candidate qualifies to be appointed as an assessor.
      Sue wanted to know who will approve those rules, the State Board or the T & F Commissioner? She was told that, after the merger, it will be the Commissioner.

  

    1. Treatment of Oil and Gas Rights Jim O'Keeffe said that there is a memo on our website about this. We're trying to address the issue.
      Vic said that Broome County is holding on to these rights in their tax sales. The practice goes to the issue of whether this is personal or real property.

  

  1. Public Education Survey Results Geoff Gloak and Randy Holcomb gave a power point presentation and handed out paper copies of it. The group discussed getting this presentation into the high schools, possibly through the school boards, heads of Social Studies departments, etc. The law says these topics must be taught.
    Sue said that people don't have a clue about property taxes.
    The group wants to be sure that after the merger people will be able to get what they need quickly from the ORPS web site, and not have to wade through Tax and Finance stuff.
    The group agreed that the Public Education Sub-group needs to be revitalized and continued.
    Geoff and Randy will review membership of the committee. They will write up what they heard today and send it to the committee and see where additional work needs to be done.
    Committee member Patti Valvo is retiring, so they plan to add another ORPS person in June.
    Christine Fusco thinks this committee will be important in educating the assessment community about merger issues.

    Action Item: Discuss disseminating PESG presentation to assessors and school boards (Geoff Gloak and Tom Frey)  

  2. Sub-group Activity Updates 

Meeting Wrap-Up

  1. Alan reviewed the Action Items.
  2. Topics for next meeting will include:
    • Publications—who prints?
    • Move/Budget
    • V5 update
    • UAS outreach
    • NYS Assessors' Association white paper
    • Marshall Swift update
  3. Dates for next RPTAC meeting: August 12 & 13, 2010, at Tax and Finance. It is possible that the T & F Deputy Commissioner will meet with us.
Updated: