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REAL PROPERTY TAX ADMINISTRATION COMMITTEE

 

REAL PROPERTY TAX ADMINISTRATION COMMITTEE

Wednesday -February 9, 2011 (1:00 pm - 4:15 pm)
Thursday - February 10, 2011 (8:30am- 12:00 pm)


Facilitator: Alan Kresge
Recorder: Geoff Gloak

Day 1 - Wednesday, February 9, 2011

****
Assessors: Tom Frey, Sue Otis, Randy Holcomb, Christine Fusco, Mike Bernard, Curt Schoeberl

County Directors: John McCarey, Robin Johnson, Tim Murphy, Laura VanValkenburg, Paul Warneck, Mike Swan, Dawn Allen.

ORPS: Vic Mallison, Tim Maher, Pat Holland, Paul Szwedo, Joe Gerberg, Geoff Gloak, Teresa Frank, Tom Bellard.

Get Organized: Alan Kresge

  • - Minutes of previous meeting approved.
  • - Review of Action Items. - Alan reviewed action items from October 28-29th, 2010 RPTAC meeting. Action items #63, 65 and 68 are still open.

NYS Assessors' Association Legislative Agenda: Sue Otis

  • - Sue Otis distributed the NYSAA's 2011 Legislative Agenda and asked for comments and support. Robin Johnson reported that the County Directors' legislative agenda would be out the following week and noted the Directors' support for some of the same measures.

State Budget/Legislative Update: Vic Mallison/Joe Gerberg/Paul Miller

  • - Governor Cuomo introduced an Executive Budget that will eliminate a $10 billion deficit. All state agencies are being asked to reduce spending by 10%. The Department of Taxation and Finance (DTF) is looking at all options to reduce costs.
  • - As part of the budget proposal, one-year reductions are proposed for our state aid and assessor/director training reimbursement programs. In addition, Railroad Aid is eliminated.
  • - As proposed, Aid for Cyclical Reassessments (ACR) will remain in place. However for 2011-12, ACR would only be available to assessing units that conducted a full reappraisal in 2011 and have not conducted a reassessment in the past two years. (If a municipality conducted a reassessment in 2009 or 2010, the 2011 reassessment is not eligible for aid in 2011-12.)
  • - In addition, for 2011-12, state reimbursement for assessor/director training would be eliminated. The laws regarding training haven't changed. However, no funding is provided for state reimbursement for training for the upcoming fiscal year.

Other budget proposals include:

Tax Modernization Bill

   Requires property inventory data to be maintained electronically beginning with rolls with taxable status dates on or after March 1, 2012

   Requires final assessment rolls to be posted online

   Allows for development of a parcel based e-government system (new RPTL section 1591)

   Authorizes the DTF Commissioner to establish standards for:

o    Electronic filing and/or transmission of all documents, including exemption applications and petitions for review of assessments

o    A paperless tax collection system, with property tax bills issued electronically and receipts issued electronically

 

STAR Exemption Changes

   Caps the STAR benefit at 102% of the prior year's exemption benefit by school district segment, for example:

o    In 2010 the maximum benefit for a Basic STAR exemption in Town A in School District 1 was $500

o    This year the maximum benefit for a Basic STAR exemption in Town A in School District 1 will be $510

o    Regardless of whether the 2011 tax rate multiplied by the 2011 Basic exemption exceeds $510, the savings will be limited to $510

   This change does not impact the calculation of STAR exemption amounts; in addition to establishing annual STAR exemption amounts, ORPTS will establish maximum STAR benefit amounts for Basic and Enhanced exemptions for each school district segment

 

Uniform Assessment Calendar and Unique Parcel ID System

   Authorizes the DTF Commissioner to:

o    prescribe a uniform statewide system of parcel identification numbering  (most likely a fixed length identifier)

o    prescribe a uniform assessment calendar for all assessing units (with the discretion to put Nassau County and New York City on a separate system)

The budget is subject to negotiation with the State Legislature.

RPS Version 5 - Greg Kidd

  • - The RPS Version 5 Project Team completed the first phase of the RPSV5 project on schedule in December. Based on the information gathered in Phase 1, the team developed a business case for the project. Included in the business case was a recommendation that the entire RPS system be rewritten and that the new system be web-based. Additional proposed functionality would include:
  • Enhanced GIS capability
  • Sketching capability
  • Integration with hand-held devices to facilitate local inventory collection
  • A new module to promote taxpayer access to and understanding of real property tax data.

As proposed, Version 5 would promote a county-centric local processing model.   In addition to individual county processing, the system would support multi-county processing for those counties that enter into a local shared services agreement.

The RPSV5 project is currently under review internally.

Also, as of this time, RPS fees are not increasing.   In addition, the RPS Governance Group remains in place.

Uniform Assessment Standards - Sue Otis / Robin Johnson

  • - Ontario County, Waterloo and Moreau have endorsed the standards. The NYSAA is distributing the standards at their booth at the NYC Association of Towns Conference. Some RPTAC members noted that compliance with the standards can involve funding, and the current fiscal situation could slow progress on adoption of the standards.

 

State Aid Rules - Paul Szwedo

  • - The proposed Rules are available online. The comment period extends through February 25.

Day 2 - Thursday, February 10, 2011

****
Assessors: Tom Frey, Sue Otis, Randy Holcomb, Christine Fusco, Mike Bernard, Curt Schoeberl

County Directors: John McCarey, Robin Johnson, Tim Murphy, Laura VanValkenburg, Paul Warneck, Mike Swan, Dawn Allen.

ORPS: Vic Mallison, Tim Maher, Pat Holland, Paul Szwedo, Joe Gerberg, Geoff Gloak, Teresa Frank, Tom Bellard.

RP-5217/TP-584 Project - Pat Holland

 

  • - Pat reported that we are waiting for direction from management.

 

Subteam Updates

 

  • Valuation Issues Team - No update.  No meeting has been held since last RPTAC update.

 

  • - Action Item #77 - Dennis Ketcham and Caryn Kolts have resigned from the Valuation Issues Team. Need to add an assessor and a county director to the team. Christine Fusco (Assessor) / Tim Murphy (County Director)

 

  • Sales Processing Team - Pat reported that we are waiting to see what happens with forms consolidation.

 

  • - Action Item #78- Eileen Kelly and Mary Ilacqua have resigned from the Sales Processing Team. Need to add an assessor and an ORPTS member. Christine Fusco (Assessor) / Tim Maher (ORPTS)

 

  • Property Class Code Team - No update.  No meeting has been held since last RPTAC update.

 

  • Public Education Subgroup - After discussing the membership, the team decided to keep this group in place but to have the group hold off on meeting and starting any new initiatives at this time.
  • - Action Item #79 - Jane Powers and Mary Ilacqua have resigned from the Public Education Subgroup. Need to add 2 county directors and an ORPTS member. Tim Murphy (County Director) / Tim Maher (ORPTS)

 

  • Equalization Project Team - Next meeting is scheduled for sometime in March
  • - Action Item #80 - Tom Frey and Denise Trudell have resigned from the Equalization Project Team. Need to add 2 assessor's to the team. Christine Fusco

 

Basic STAR Income Limit  - Pat Holland

  • - ORPTS informed the team that a review of the data provided to assessors was underway and that those assessors who hadn't sent their denial letters should hold off until the review is complete. Some local officials questioned why ORPTS staff asked assessors when the letters had been sent.

 

  • - ORPTS informed the team that an email will be going out this afternoon telling assessors to hold off on sending denial letters. During the matching of income tax returns and assessment roll data, an error was made in some cases. As a result, some taxpayers were identified as not-qualified, when in fact they were qualified. The email will also note that a new Basic STAR Assistance Line is available for assessors to provide to taxpayers as a last resort.
  • - Some assessors and directors raised concerns about collecting social security numbers (SSN's). Also raised were concerns about retaining income tax returns. ORPTS noted that state archiving regulations do not require that social security numbers be retained. As such the RP-425-biv does not need to be retained by the assessor.
  • - Three additional representatives from the Department of Taxation and Finance (DTF) arrived and participated in the remaining STAR discussion:
  • - Peggy Sherman, Deputy Commissioner for Processing
  • - Nancy Scott-Horan, Project Manager
  • - Deb Nickles, Assistant Director for Returns Processing
  • - For taxpayers who do not have a copy of a tax return, DTF will expedite the processing of the request to get a copy of the return to the taxpayer. This also applies to tax returns that the assessor does not trust are the actual income tax returns, which is another concern raised by the assessors. In those cases, assessors can use the TR-152 to request a copy of a tax return on behalf of the taxpayer. The request requires a notarized authorization for the taxpayer. The cost is 25 cents per page.
  • - An assessor asked if it is possible for a taxpayer to provide a notarized affidavit that they make less than $500,000? ORPTS noted that there no such authorization in the statute.
  • - Regarding the false-positive N letter that DTF will be sending, an assessor asked when the letter will go out and if assessors can first be notified of the specific parcels where the letters will be sent. DTF will provide the corrected reports to the assessors before sending the letters.
  • - There was discussion about whether the tax returns should be retained by the assessor as proof or be shredded. DTF will ask their attorneys for an opinion on this.
  • - Action Item #81 - Do assessors need to retain tax returns ( 6 years)? Tim / Vic will ask counsel
  • - Discussion progressed to how the STAR income limit might best be administered in future years. Among the ideas discussed were changing STAR to an income tax credit and having taxpayers apply directly to DTF.
  • - Assessors agreed that the types of dissatisfaction they're hearing from taxpayers would require legislative changes to the program. They are suggesting that those taxpayers contact their State Legislators.
  • - Also noted was that some people on the deceased list are not actually deceased.
  • - An assessor asked if the process of collecting SSN's could be eliminated for this year and, instead, some other process be implemented. ORPTS/DTF responded that having the SSN's is important for us to do accurate matches in the future.
  • - Also asked was whether the RP-425-biv's could be sent directly to DTF, rather than having them given to the assessor who then has to do the data entry. The obstacle is that DTF doesn't know who the resident owners and resident owners' spouses are. The assessor needs to confirm that by entering the information into the online program.
  • - The assessors also suggested that official Basic STAR Income Limit procedures would be helpful, rather than the piecemeal information they're receiving.
  • - The team discussed whether it would make sense for DTF to do a press release regarding the program. At question was whether it made sense to notify all taxpayers via a press release, when the new limit only impacts a small percent of them.
  • - The question was asked about what could happen in cases where assessors don't comply with the law. Our outreach efforts have show that assessors are complying. If we see non-compliance we will address it internally.
  • - One assessor noted that his office uses Lexis/Nexis Accurint (a paid service) to gather specific information on taxpayers. Using this service, they found a case of fraud where the individual is now repaying $39,000 to the town.
  • - Regarding the RP-425-biv, the language stating that the assessor won't keep a copy of the document was questioned. ORPTS included the language to help protect the assessor. One assessor outside of RPTAC asked that the language be removed and was provided with a form without that bullet.
  • - DTF asked if it would make sense for DTF to directly contact U's who didn't provide their SSN's and ask for them to be provided directly to DTF. The assessors suggested that should be after school tax time.

 

STAR Exemption Flyer - Mike Bernard

  • - A new service on Long Island - the STAR Exemption Advisor - is soliciting to homeowners who don't have STAR. For half of one-year's benefit, the company will complete an application, get the homeowner's signature, and submit it to the assessor. One of the assessors suggested that the state may want to have some reaction to this, since the exemption is state-funded. Vic said he would look into doing outreach to Newsday about this issue.
  • - Action Item #82 - STAR Exemption Flyer - will talk to press office. Vic

Ag Course - Vic Mallison

  • - The Assessors' Association has suggested outsourcing the teaching of the Ag Course to the Association. Curt sent a letter to Vic about this and Vic agreed to bring the topic back to RPTAC. ORPTS' Bob Wright currently teaches the course, and an ORPTS staff person is learning the course. Frank Dirolf, who oversees ORPTS' overall Ag Program sat in for this discussion. Before we would be willing to outsource it, Vic asked what would be the cost if the NYSAA provided the course. Curt asked if Bob Wright has the time to teach the course.
  • - Through the conversation, it was clarified that the NYSAA only wanted to offer the program as an alternative, rather than offer it exclusively, which is what ORPTS had been assuming. ORPTS agreed to give the issue further consideration.
  • - Action Item #83 - Ag. Course, rethink giving course material to assessors. Vic

Next meeting: Wednesday, April 27 and Thursday, April 28, 2011, at Malta Town Hall.

Topics for next time:

Training

Budget Update

Legislative Update

Sub-group Updates

Uniform Assessment Standards

STAR

V5

RP5217/TP584 Project

Public education Subgroup

 

Updated: