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Department of Taxation and Finance


Thursday –August 12, 2010 (1:00 pm – 4:45 pm)
Friday – August 13, 2010 (8:30am- 1:10 pm)

Facilitator: Philomena Reilly
Recorder: Bonnie Hellum

Day 1 - Thursday, August 12, 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, Paul Warneck
ORPTS: Vic Mallison, Tim Maher, Pat Holland, Jim O'Keeffe, Paul Swedo, Paul Miller, Geoff Gloak, Sally Cooney

Get Organized: Philomena Reilly

  1. 1. Review minutes from last meeting and finalize. The group finalized the minutes from the April 2010 meeting.
  2. 2. Review agenda and make necessary changes. There were no changes to the agenda, and no updates to action items.


    1. Budget/Merger/Move/Enforcement

As part of the budget, ORPTS has merged into the Department of Taxation and Finance (DTF) as the Office of Real Property Tax Services (ORPTS). The budget allocation for ORPTS has been reduced by $8 million; Vic noted that the agency would likely spend less than that amount. All spending is being closely reviewed, including travel.

Also in the budget, Annual Aid and Triennial Aid have been replaced by Cyclical Reassessment Aid.

Someone asked if approvals had been obtained for the upcoming County Directors conference. The concern is that there are several ORPTS staff members on the agenda. These staff will need to attend the conference.

Tom Frey asked what was expected in terms of funding for State Aid this year and in future years. ORPTS responded that, for this fiscal year, $6.9 million was included for State Aid and $400,000 for training reimbursement (including $50,000 for New York City). Tom noted that, if ORPTS no longer has the ability to know the amount of funding for assessor/director training, the current structure for allocating training reimbursements would have to change.

As a result of ORPTS merger with the DTF, we no longer have dedicated ORPTS IT staff. All of our IT staff is part of the IT Division. We still have a good level of support, but this change will result in a new process for vetting new projects within the Department. Projects will need to be brought through a dashboard where priorities are assigned by, first, the IT Division and then approved by Executive Staff.

There was also discussion about RPTAC meeting space at DTF. Most members felt that the security issue here was too restrictive and that an off-site location might be better for the group. The group decided to have their next meeting at the Malta town offices.

Some questions have surfaced about ORPTS enforcement policies now that we are DTF. It's true that we will be looking to bring more things into conformance with our rules and regs. E.g. recent letter sent out regarding inventory. In response, some of RPTAC felt that the letter was “heavy handed.” Jim O'Keeffe responded that the language in the letter was contained in the Real Property Tax Law.

Kathy Conklin said that her reason for not giving the state her inventory is moot because of the law change.
Vic said that an internal decision was made, and this is the path we decided to take.
John McCarey said that ORPTS never enforced things before, and that there are concerns about things suddenly being enforced.
Tom Frey said that what concerned him wasn't so much the letter from T & F, but the demands made in it.
Vic does not want this to keep us from working collaboratively.

The enforcement issue brought up a lot of discussion regarding the role of DTF in ORPTS work. Sue Otis asked what the assessment community may expect of the relationship between them and T & F.
Vic said he does not expect any change, even though a lack of resources makes it harder to do the job effectively. ORPTS is losing several employees as a result of the Early Retirement Incentive and is not expecting to be able to replace those employees. As such, ORPTS will be looking for areas where reasonable enforcement of existing laws can create efficiencies.

Sue Otis thinks T & F should have sent the assessment community a “hello, how are you” letter so that the local assessors would know what was going on. The first letter received from T & F was a demand, she said.

A.I. #54 Communication from DTF to assessment community, maybe via Property Tax Monitor. 

    1. Uniform Assessment Standards—Update on Outreach Efforts 

Robin said she put out some questions on the list-serve and got a lukewarm reception. She intends to take this document through committee and have it adopted. John McCarey said he made it public on the website and sent a copy to his assessors.

Laura Vanvalkenburg said that her assessors want no part of it. They think it's leading up to county assessing. She's moving toward putting it in front of the legislators. She suggested that Tom Frey send out a memo about this, to help them understand that the UAS is not their enemy.

Sue Otis said this was presented at a one-day meeting for an Adirondack taxpayers' group, and they loved it.

Robin thinks that the counties have a place in this, by endorsing and publishing the standards.

Paul Warneck doesn't think legislation is the right way to approach this. If the assessors don't support it, why should he push it? He hasn't heard any negative comments.

A.I. #55 & #56 Contact the Association of Towns for a Uniform Assessment Standards list serve, and send communications to newly-elected officials via training. (Office of the State Comptroller) (Tom Frey) 

    1. Inventory Initiatives  

Tim Maher said that the UAS talks about having an accurate inventory on computerized files. Deficiencies in complying with this have been identified in 85 places, and letters have been sent asking how ORPTS could help. Reaction has varied—some places are planning reassessment, some said they are making an effort to collect data, some just need to get their info onto the computer, some said they are not going to share information, some said they don't have the money to comply.

Mike Swan said he has a town with their inventory on cards, not in V4. Another supervisor and elected official think ORPTS should help to get this onto V4.

Tom Frey said that there is no law about this.

Mike asked if ORPTS, at some point, going to force small towns to post this information.

Vic said we have to get the information into a format that can be submitted, and that ORPTS will force things sooner rather than later.

Tom Frey wanted to know who owns this information. Who is the custodian of the records? Randy Holcomb said that it is the town clerk. Jim O'Keeffe said municipal records are the responsibility of the municipal clerk. Robin said that maybe people need to be told that this is the direction we are going. 

    1. Publications—who prints? Complaint booklets. 

Tom Frey said that this is what happened when ORPTS decided they didn't have to provide booklets and exemption forms. ORPTS said, “It's available on the internet. City of Kingston was doing annual reassessment. They couldn't provide copies; the city said they were not making them available any more.

A.I. #56 Make publications/forms/pamphlets available to local government now that we are part of DTF.

This discussion is about the BAR training manual.

Vic asked, "What if we put them online?" Ask BAR members about it. He is hesitant to spend money on printing.

Robin said to keep one copy of each in the office, to use for reference.

Sue said to have things available in print for people who can't get it any other way.

John McCarey said that if the online information is up to date, the county directors can print it out.

Vic said he will work on this.

A.I. #57 Make BAR video and training materials available. The Training Advisory Group needs to talk about this.

Geoff Gloak said that the commissioner likes the video. Some state agencies are putting this type of thing on You Tube. He thinks Commissioner Woodward would welcome this. It was pointed out that the video is a teaching aid, not a stand-alone, plus it has some out of date information. 

    1. Legislative Update / 510, 511 Update 

Paul Miller passed out the status sheet. As of today, there are 47 RPT-related bills that have passed the House. About half are one-parcel bills. There are 3 budget bills—the merger bill, the assessment disclosure language, and the electronic 5217 process.

The RPT bill related to changes to the STAR program led to lengthy discussion on how to administer the proposed legislation. A couple of scenarios on how we could identify eligibility for STAR resulted.

Robin said that T & F knows who makes more than $500,000 and can send a letter to those people, telling them that they are no longer eligible for STAR. “Contact your assessor and get her to remove your exemption.” That would leave us out of the process.

Vic said we could have everyone re-apply and give their Soc. Sec. number and address. This would give us the data. T & F knows incomes but not who owns which parcel. We could send them a letter, cc the assessor, and pull them off the roll. There are a lot of scenarios.

A.I. #58 STaR Legislation Group (Vic) –Assessors, County Directors. Vic will reach out to assessors and county directors for participation.   

Day 2 - Friday, August 13, 2010

Facilitator: Philomena Reilly
Recorder: Bonnie Hellum

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, Paul Warneck
ORPTS: Vic Mallison, Tom Bellard, Tim Maher, Pat Holland, Jim O'Keeffe, Paul Swedo, Geoff Gloak, Sally Cooney.

Get Organized: No changes to agenda. 

    1. State Aid—new law and how we plan to administer 

Tim Maher said that in conversation with the governor's office, ORPTS has come up with a proposal—municipalities will receive up to $5 per parcel in years they are doing a reassessment, and up to $2 per parcel in in-between years. The legislature has passed this, so it is now law. The law applies to most 2010 assessment rolls, so munis will have to know what to do to get reimbursement for 2010. The old triennial and annual aid programs are repealed.

Tim gave a power point presentation. If towns do not submit a reassessment plan, they will not get reimbursement. The maximum aid in any one year is $500,000.

Next steps—Tim said they will go for draft rules by next week, and get approval from T & F. When will the power point presentation go to the local officials? In September, when everything is final, or now, so assessors know what they should be thinking about?

Randy said that because of budgeting, it needs to go out now. His county will lose an employee, who is funded by reimbursements. Phil Hembdt said that people who are not in this room will be weighing in on this, and things could change.

5a is the new State Aid program.

Phil said that the new emergency rules will be out by early Sept. He said that until we get a feel for where the process is, he is being conservative. He doesn't want to have to retract anything.

Paul said that the assessors, etc. already know that things are going to be changing. It is not a well-kept secret. Put "subject to change" on the info.

Tom Frey said the topic is already out there, that CRMs have been talking to the assessors. They should emphasize that the changes have not been finalized.

Tim Maher said that ORPTS will put on the info that this is still under discussion.

Geoff said he has a 2-page handout that highlights what is still under discussion. He will send this out to the assessment community as soon as he is given the OK.

Jim O'Keeffe recommended against putting the info out to the general public on the website.

Geoff said it will not be put on the internet but will either go out by email or be presented in person.

Vic said we need to be accurate and say, "This is what we're considering."

A.I. #59 Geoff/Vic will create a web page forum with Q & A for assessment community.

Paul W. said that if the info doesn't go out, they'll all be getting info from each other, whatever is going around.

Tom Pinto said that the info has to be consistent across regions.

The 2010 and 2011 reassessment municipalities have to be informed first, in a timely manner. Some have already completed their assessments. Tim said if the rules are not ready by Sept., there will have to be some adjustments. 

    1. RPS V5—future direction of the program. Greg Kidd, ORPTS Manager of RPS, handed out a summary of what has happened with the project since the last RPTAC meeting. Jim Lieb is the chief architect of V5. Our IT people report to Carol Bentley. Greg reported that Phase One of the project is on-going. This phase consists of research and the first step in planning for RPSV5. They are looking at how other states handle real property administration. Some supply software, others do not.  

The team is using listserv and a new webpage to keep the assessment community informed about the project. The results of the recent survey are available on the webpage, as is a summary of assessment administration software in other states. FAQs and a mailbox are also available.

Team members continue to attend “user groups” to discuss the project. In addition, the team completed a project risk assessment. They have also looked at private sector alternatives. Vendors have come in and given presentations. We don't want to lose our existing constituents, Greg said. Is there going to be a willingness to pay for this? Will it be cost effective to put in? Does the vendor offer that we can pay for only the areas we want to use? We may still look at some more private vendors.

Tom Frey said he will pick up some business cards of private vendors at the IAAO conference next month.

Greg said that these are not cheap solutions, but they have some nice aspects—integrated sketching program, tax collection modules, etc.

There is hope that, now that ORPTS's former IT staff is merged into the Tax Department, there will be more resources available to develop RPS V5. 

    1. Marshall & Swift: Project Manager Kathy Glannon gave a project update. We started with Boeckh 25 years ago for our cost valuation system. The goal of the project is to update all of the cost data in RPS V4 by March, 2011. Each year, Boeckh indexed the values they provided to ORPTS. When Boeckh was bought out by Marshall & Swift, the decision was made to update all of the components at the unit level. They are providing ORPTS with 17,000+ unit cost components that will be incorporated into the RPS V4 cost valuation system. We are making sure that both we and Marshall & Swift are including the same things in the values. Recently, staff had two days of meetings with Marshall & Swift people, and this was very helpful. 

Full release is planned for March 2011. Our five-year contract ends in May 2011. We are planning with T&F how to go forward, so that Marshall & Swift can continue to support our values. T & F recommended some amendments to the contract, including extending it by six months, and we have put in for that. We have drawn up a draft support agreement. We have not seen Marshall & Swift's numbers yet.

We did not agree with Marshall & Swift on location multipliers.

Robin Johnson said that Boeckh is gone, and Marshall & Swift is the only game in town, so whatever we do now will be an issue forever.

Geoff said that Marshall & Swift has Boeckh's research staff.

Robin asked if there will be an opportunity to change some things in V5. As things change, what will Marshall & Swift have to do?

Geoff said they won't have to do anything. They keep the values going forward and incorporate them into RPS.

Greg Kidd said that we're paying for the index values now. Five or six years ago, the key attributes were conveyed to us. The impact on local officials will be minimal. That's where this came from. 

    1. NYS Assessor's Association--White paper on Real Property Tax Reform. Peggy Jenkins 

Vic said that this paper contains some good stuff on exemptions and other things. He is deciding what to recommend to Commissioner Woodward on the RPT issues. The dilemma he has is the foundation for the document, which is to get rid of property tax and move to income tax or sales tax to fund the schools. He said that legislators will never take that bold move.

Also, income and sales taxes are too undependable, and a change like this will drive people out of New York even faster than property tax has. He suggests that the paper be toned back—perhaps suggesting to reduce property tax by increments while increasing sales and income taxes by increments.

Sue Otis said that they went to the wall to start a conversation about this. 

    1. Silvopasturing Robin Johnson said that this report was sent to her with no prior discussion. It was developed by Jim Ochterski, Agriculture and Natural Resources Issues leader, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Ontario County, and Brett Chedzoy, Regional Natural Resources Specialist, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Schuyler County. Silvopasture is pastured woodland. They are looking for recognition of silvopasturing in the property tax system. Fifty acres is the limit for not being counted as woodland for ag valuation.

      Mark Twentyman said he has some difficulty with this. How does the assessor make that determination? It does not apply to rented land. He is not against the idea. He gets calls, mostly from people who want to claim that they are farmers.

Action Item #61 Ask for a legal opinion on silvopasturing. Do we need to act on this? To implement this? (ORPTS Legal) 

  1. Sub-Group activity updates
      1. Valuation Issues Team—Farm Valuation Steve Beals handed out the team's report. He had two Action items from last time. He said that progress continues on the assessors' manual. The handout deals with the valuation of farms and contains information about doing the work-around for valuing economic units in V4.
      2. Sales Processing Team Pat Holland said this committee met in June. They are working on moving the RP-5217 to an electronic format. This year, legislation authorized the modernization of the form, as well as combining it with the TP-584 Transfer Tax form.

        Vic said that the county clerks must be involved, and perhaps the real estate attorneys also.
      1. Property Class Code. No report.
      2. Public Education sub-group Randy Holcomb had asked to retire from the committee after the last meeting. Geoff is also leaving the team. One of the ORPTS members will set up the next team meeting after the county directors provide the name of their second member. Current members are: Mary Ilacqua, Patti Valvo, Tom Bloodgood, Dave Marrano, and Denise Trudell.

      A. I. #60 Ask Mary Ilacqua to call a Public Education subgroup meeting. County Directors need to add a person to the group.
    1. Equalization Project Team member Pat Holland said that this group met June 22. Josette Polzella presented her topic at that meeting. Pat said that we are following the IAAO standards and we are not going to change anything. The regions do adjustments if they feel sales chasing is occurring. The committee did not see a real need to change.