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REAL PROPERTY TAX ADMINISTRATION COMMITTEE

   

REAL PROPERTY TAX ADMINISTRATION COMMITTEE

Wednesday - April 27, 2011 (1:00 pm - 4:20 pm)
Thursday - April 28, 2011 (8:30 am - 11:40 am)


Facilitator: Alan Kresge
Recorder: Bonnie Hellum

Day 1 - Wednesday, April 27, 2011

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

County Directors: Dawn Allen, John McCarey, Tim Murphy, Laura VanValkenburg, Paul Warneck.

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

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Get Organized: Alan Kresge

  • 1. Review minutes from last meeting and finalize. There were no corrections to the February minutes.
  • 2. Review Action Items. Alan said that AIs #77, 78, 79 & 80 have to do with sub-team membership, which we will discuss at that point in the agenda. He will eliminate the AIs that have been completed. #81-the requested communication was sent. #82 Geoff spoke with the Newsday reporter and shared solicitation. To our knowledge, story has not gone to print. #83 "Ag. Course, rethink giving course material to assessors." We need to bring Susan Savage up to date on this. We'll talk about this during the Training Governance time. Open Action Items: #24 "Report to ORPS areas where locals are not supported by the courts (Nassau)." Joe said that there was no follow-up to this one. #65 "Get UAS sub-group together to discuss modifications (rewrite of intro)." We'll address this one during the Uniform Assessment Standards time. #14. "The committee will share information about economic units with RPTAC members." There's a work-around for this, but we never found out what it was; this is at a standstill. Perhaps Colleen Adamec of the Valuation Issues Team can answer this one.
  • 3. Review agenda and make necessary changes.

The group introduced themselves to Susan Savage, the new Assistant Deputy Commissioner of ORPTS. Susan said she has been here for 7 days, and it has been a fast-paced start. She is happy to be here at ORPTS. She is familiar with the issues this office deals with, she said, and the governor wanted someone who could hit the ground running. Today's meeting will be a review for her. She has been gone for 11 months. The Governor's Appointments Office is backlogged. She knows we need two more board members, and she will keep on them until the positions are filled.

  • a. Budget Update was melded into b.
  • b. Legislative Update Paul Miller passed out "2011 RPT Related Bills of Interest-Passed Both Houses-Status as of 4/27/11 (Count = 4)" with the text of these bills. Joe said that of the 4 items on the first page, 3 are STAR-related. Number 4 is new. Most of these can be administered electronically. These are not binding on local governments. Grievances and various applications can be filed electronically. Joe discussed some of the bills. These are law, but there are no consequences until we get the standards out. Mike Bernard thinks that the electronic filing will open the floodgates to fraud. He is inundated with grievance forms. Joe said there are provisions in the law for electronic signatures. Sue Otis asked about the time frame for the standards. Joe said this is still in the early stages. The standards will be a consensus, and hopefully the municipalities will opt in. Tom Frey said that it will take only one news story and people will start emailing stuff to the assessors. The assessors need to be kept up-to-date on what's happening with this. Joe said that the original version of the bill had the parcel e-government proposal, and that was taken out.

Page 7 of the handout-new exemption with limited impact, dealing with prison facilities. Page 9 -Local Assistance bill. This over-rides the statute. Local aid for doing a reval will not be available on an annual basis, but only if reval is done after three years or more. Sue said we need to get answers quickly so local governments can plan.

Paul's second handout was "2011 RPT Related Bills of Interest-Passed One House-Status as of 4/27/11" Paul said that legislative activity resumes May 2. There are only 22 legislative days left. So far, only budget bills have made it through. The tax cap bill is getting a lot of attention. The Assembly has held day-long hearings on it. The Speaker of the Assembly wants to carve out more exceptions. The Governor might be willing to negotiate. There's a lot of talk, not a lot of action. The tax cap is the number one legislative issue that people want pursued. The legislative calendar can change. Paul said that some of the bills in here are horrifying. Some are of interest to assessors, such as the NYSAA Bill on page 3, which addresses the 324 issue. Condo bills on page 5.  Paul explained several of the bills.

  • c. Uniform Assessment Standards. Update on Outreach Efforts. Sue Otis said the group is supposed to meet in Sept. to go over the language. She is not aware of any other county that has adopted the UAS. Tom Frey said the group had agreed to the language change in the introduction. Geoff Gloak has not had confirmation that this was approved.

Action Item #84 - Geoff Gloak will update the introduction to the Uniform Assessment Standards that Robin Johnson provided two meetings ago, and change all references from "ORPS" to "ORPTS."

Tim Maher said that 6 to 9 months ago we talked about communicating about the standards, and the assessors wanted ORPTS to hold off. Sue Otis said that some munis used the standards during budget time, and town boards are talking about them. Lack of money in the local governments is a problem. The timing is not right for us to push this, right after aid has been removed. The perception would be that this is an unfunded mandate. We will talk about this again in October.

  • d. & e. Senior Exemption Form 467-lack of information on form, and Chautauqua Co.-wording on tax bill. Mike Bernard said the senior exemption becomes more difficult each year. He's had dead applicants signing the application for ten years. (The man's son had been forging the documents.) He's had 12 dead people applying for senior exemptions. He added a page to the application, asking more questions. You cannot get an aged exemption off your school taxes if school-age children live in the home, which penalizes grandparents who are raising their grandchildren.

Accurint.com is a program that gives you 25 years of history for an address and for a person at 25 cents per search. It is available only to government agencies.  School tax can be relieved by the school district. Grandparents raising grandchildren are saving social services a lot of money. Schools have the right to excuse them. Tom Frey wants RPTAC to work on forms. Teresa Frank said that RPTAC should do the content, and Tax & Finance could do the "feel," to have the forms match other T&F documents.

Action Item #85 - Joe said ORPTS will assign someone to look at forms. Tom Frey and Mike Bernard will be on this sub-group to review the documents.

Sue Otis said it would be nice if all towns were asking taxpayers for the same information. The assessor has to make a decision. Mike will submit forms to legal. The team will be revived and will look over forms.

Regarding legal notices on tentative and final rolls, Sue Otis said that the language should be changed to let people know that the rolls and grievance forms are out online. She said we need to address this.

Action Item #86 - Geoff will send out a notice to the listserve that the rolls and grievance forms are online

.

Action Item #87 - Joe will look at the legal notice for the filing of the tentative and final rolls and see if changes can be made within the bounds of the law.

These notices can be in the free-form section of the form, which would not require a change to RPS.

Action Item #88 -  Pat said she can ask if this (free- form section) has to go to the RPS Change Control Board.

  • e. Chautauqua Co.-wording on tax bill-Randy Holcomb said the Chautauqua Co. Assessors Association met in February. Property Taxpayer's Bill of Rights wording "the assessor estimates" is an invitation to tell us how wrong we are on your market value. They voted to drop these words from the tax bill. An ORPTS liaison that he heard from recently said that he had verified this wording with legal, and assessors would not be able to produce tax bills on FoxPro if they remove the wording. Joe said that "assessor's estimate of full value of the property" is in the law. "Assessor estimates" is hard coded. That's what the tax bill should say. The nine counties that do not use this wording on their bills did not ask ORPTS. ORPTS produces certain software, and cannot control what assessors do with other vendors.

"Estimated full value" is what the Chautauqua Co. assessors want to use. Randy said that his CRM agreed. It was another ORPTS staff person who objected.

Action Item #89 - Randy will email the specific question regarding the wording on the tax bill to Joe.

Action Item #90 - Joe will review Randy's question and respond.  Alan will send the response to group.

Randy said there is a huge difference in the two wordings. The group did not come to an agreement on this topic. Sue Otis said the present wording is confusing to the taxpayer and it creates problems. Susan Savage said she understands this and said ORPTS will look at it and see if there's a way to change it.

  • f. V5 Status Update Pat Holland said the team has completed the inception phase. The project was tabled by the Product Review Board. She met with Deputy Commissioner Jamie Woodward on March 2, there was a lot of discussion, and she is waiting to hear back from IT.

Tom Frey said that RPS Governance thinks V5 is not happening. Pat said that we don't know that yet. We are trying to get on the dashboard and we're not there yet. We have the information to go forward, but we have not been given the go-ahead.

  • g. Update 5217/TP584 Project Pat Holland said that legislation passed a year ago saying that we could combine this data. We want to go to a one-part, bar-coded form. We were given the go-ahead to try it in five counties, Onondaga, Orange, Essex, Tompkins and Cortland, as a pilot program. We eventually want to do this statewide. (Westchester County and New York City have their own systems.) We are trying to eliminate having a person typing data in. The forms would populate automatically. She will be having a teleconference with the RPTAC subcommittee to bring them up to date.

Wrap Up: Alan wrapped up the day's proceedings and the group adjourned.

Day 2 - Thursday, April 28, 2011

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Assessors: Cathy Conklin, Tom Frey, Sue Otis, Randy Holcomb, Christine Fusco, Mike Bernard

County Directors: Dawn Allen, John McCarey, Tim Murphy, Laura VanValkenburg, Paul Warneck.

ORPS: Susan Savage, Tom Bellard, Tim Maher, Pat Holland, Paul Szwedo, Joe Gerberg, Geoff Gloak, Teresa Frank, Phil Hembdt

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Get Organized: Alan Kresge

  • 4. Review agenda and make necessary changes.

Alan reviewed the agenda and asked for revisions. Tom Frey wants to talk about cost during the training segment.

  • a. Sub-Group Activity Updates
  • 1. Valuation Issues Team Alan read 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." There was no update from this team. Their next meeting is scheduled in May. What to do about the membership of this committee? Tom Frey asked if there are terms, and if so, when they expire.

Action Item #91 - Alan will research membership requirements for each of the teams, by looking at their charters, and send the information out to the group.

Laura VanValkenburg said that their most recent main issues were about the used-as codes and ag valuation as an economic unit, and that wasn't going anywhere.

 Action Item #92 - Tom Frey will talk to Steve Beals and ask the committee to get in touch with Don Collins about ag valuation.

  • 2. Sales Processing Team Pat Holland said there will be a teleconference shortly. Candice Whitmyer will be replacing Eileen Kelly on this team.
  • 3. Property Class Code no report. This team has not had a meeting recently.
  • 4. Equalization Project Team This team met recently. "How market areas are determined" is on the agenda for the next meeting.
  • 5. Public Education Committee This group is dormant until an issue comes up. Robin Johnson is now on this team.
  • b. STAR. Implementation of new program-Taxpayers with incomes of more than $500,000 are no longer eligible for the STAR exemption. Tom Frey said he is not satisfied with the quality of information he received. There is no proof that people are not qualified, and assessors are uncomfortable taking them off. Pat said, if people are "undetermined," did they not file income tax? Or is there some other reason? We need a Social Security number and another identifier to say that they are the resident owner. Tim said that at some point we will need to keep track on the tax roll of who is the resident owner. There might be four owners of a property, but only one resides there.

Christine Falco said that we're going to get some flack when people get their school tax bills in Sept. Some notices about the exemptions are not being delivered and not being returned to the assessor.

Mike Bernard said he flags the outside of the envelope with a different color ink-Important, Property Tax Exemption Information, Do Not Disregard.

Paul Warneck asked if there will be a test run this year.

Pat said yes, they are working on a database with Social Security numbers that will help cut down on the "undetermineds."

Tom Frey asked how this falls under correction of errors-when someone gets their tax bill and that's the first they know that they have lost their STAR exemption.

Joe said he's looking into whether the STAR legislation might cover it. Tom Frey said he thinks there will be legislation to make it correctable.

Susan Savage asked how many of these are through no fault of the property owner--the little old lady whose mailbox got knocked down by the snow plow.

Sue Otis said not many, and that she is concerned about the ones who just ignored the notice.

Cathy Conklin said that at least half of the "undetermined" that she removed will qualify for the exemption.

Susan said she understands the concern that the taxpayers will call their legislator or a newspaper reporter. Sue Otis cited the article about the taxpayer in Bethlehem who missed the March 1 deadline-her phone rang for two days after that article was printed.

Tom Frey said he talked to the reporter for 45 minutes and convinced her that this was not the assessor's fault.

Cathy asked when Social Security numbers will have to be input. She hasn't had the time.

Pat said by September 30. She added that she is optimistic that this process is going to go better next year, because of the database they're working on, that associates parcels with Social Security numbers. Out of the 2.1 million parcels we process, there are 500,000 that we don't have SS #s for.

Mike said to add the SS#s to the 5217. Pat said that is a public document. Mike said to make the carbons black in that field, and the state gets the only copy with the SS #.  Pat said that when you have trusts, you can't do it with the SS#.

Cathy Conklin asked about municipalities that are not on RPS having a higher amount of undetermineds. Is our different software a complicating factor? Are there alternatives?

Pat said they will look at the tentative roll and be sure they can reformat it properly.

Cap on STAR benefits-Pat said that new legislation put a cap on STAR savings. If a taxpayer saved $500 last year, all they can save this year is 2 percent more, $510. The state will only pay 2 percent more than last year. Sue Otis asked what type of educational tool will be out there to explain this to the taxpayer. Joe said our model tax bill will have a line on it explaining the new legislation. Not everyone uses the model bill.

Tom Frey doesn't want the assessor to have to change all the exemption amounts.

Cathy Conklin said that there has been no outreach to other software vendors so they would know this was coming.

Joe said it's not the exemption, it's the savings, by school district. There is not an individual calculation for each taxpayer.

Sue Otis said a full explanation of this needs to be on the ORPTS website so she can refer taxpayers there.

Action Item #93 - Geoff will put something together regarding the CAP on STAR benefits and send it to the group.

Cathy Conklin asked who the software vendors should contact about the programming changes they need to make.

Action Item 94 - Pat said she'll get a name of who the software vendors should contact about the programming changes and send it to everyone who has the non-RPS software.

Cathy Conklin asked if there is going to be an alteration to the STAR reimbursement form. Pat said yes, the STAR unit is working on it now.

Exemption Renunciation-this includes STAR, Veterans, 467-any exemption. This is aimed at people with property in Florida. ORPTS is working on a form. These property owners will have to pay interest and a processing fee, in addition to paying back the money.

Simple Unique Parcel ID-Pat said there is legislation to allow for statewide parcel ID numbers. We already have one, but it's not simple; it has 26 digits. People are throwing out ideas, but we don't have it yet.

Tom Frey asked what the benefit would be to assessment. He thinks this is crazy. There are 5 million parcels in NY-how long is that number going to be?

Paul Warneck doesn't want to renumber the tax maps.

Pat said that the purpose of this is to help match parcels and SS#s. They'll be on RPS, so we can match them from year to year. The thought is not to get rid of the SBLs.

Tom Frey suggested coming up with a way to put it on everyone's roll, including those not on RPS.

Joe said that numbers will have to be generated for a split and the specifics have not been nailed down. The law says that 2013 is the soonest that this can be binding.

Pat said that there is no timeline, only informal discussions at this point.

STAR fraud savings for 2012-Joe said this is not a budget bill. It books $50 million in savings for the state, and puts a line in the documentation saying the savings will come from STAR fraud and abuse. Now it's up to the department to figure out how to do this. Some of the savings will come from the renunciation. We're hoping to catch the multiple exemptions.

  • c. Training Update. Tom Frey handed out a paper detailing registration costs for courses given by the IAO and other providers. He said he put this together because he had been told that ORPTS could put on the training cheaper than the Assessors' Association could. He said his handout shows that the Assessors' Association is competitive cost-wise. He doesn't think ORPTS is tallying their expenses correctly. He wants this looked at logically, so everyone knows what ORPTS' cost is. Paul S. asked for clarification on the handout. It was confirmed that the form actually showed 2 different sets of data. The top of the form compares registration fees and the bottom set of data relates to ORPTS costs for preparing materials and instructor costs, overhead etc. They are two separate sets of data.

Sue Otis said that the Assessors' Association is trying to fill the gaps in training, because ORPTS no longer has a training unit, is under a financial crunch, etc.

Tom Frey wants to know what it costs ORPTS to put on a training course because the taxpayers are paying for it.

Tom Bellard said that what we'd pay Tom's association would be incremental out-of-pocket. These ORPTS people are getting paid anyway. The course has long been developed.

Sue Otis said that it's not about who can put the course on cheaper. She doesn't think it costs the Association any more or less than it costs ORPTS. She said the Association wants to offer this to their membership if it's more convenient for them.

Tom Bellard said that the more courses you offer, the harder it is to fill them.  Sue said that it's hard for the assessment folks to get out of the office. Wherever they decide to congregate, that's where the course should be held. The offerings have to be there. She wants to tell the membership,"Tell us what you need and we'll put it on for you."

Paul Szwedo asked why we need to do anything different. There have been no complaints, we have qualified instructors, and the schedule is laid out for the year. We're all set. We don't need to do anything differently.

Tom Frey said their assessors have asked them if they'd put on the farm course.

Laura VanValkenburg said the goal is to get people trained and certified. Why does it matter if the course is in one area of the state, taught by one group or another?

Paul S. said location is not an issue.  We do a needs analysis and provide the training in a location that shows the most need.

Joe said our goal is to stretch training dollars as far as possible. ORPTS does not charge tuition.

Tom Frey said that his association does not have taxpayers subsidizing the course, and ORPTS does.

Susan Savage said that there is a new reality, in that there's a reduced amount of training dollars available at ORPTS. We need to figure out the best way to proceed from here.  The mantra is to "do more with less."

Sue Otis asked if they are going to be able to keep the ag course.

Pat said it comes to, "Who owns the material? Who updates and corrects it?"

Tom Frey said they keep current material for any courses they teach.

Cathy Conklin said she is on the training advisory sub-committee, and that they can look at this. She said that the ag course has always been popular, especially when it's offered at Cornell. It doesn't make sense for RPTAC to deal with this. The sub-group is also looking at changes to minimum qualifications, etc. The future is changing.

The group agreed that for this year it was too late to have the Ag. Course presented by other groups.

Action Item # 95 - The training advisory group will look at the training issue, decide what courses are needed, and plan for the future.

b. Training Update. Paul Szwedo said that there are two main things:

  • 1. Proposed rules for minimum qualification standards. Apprenticeship is part of this.
  • 2. Continuing education requirements.

Paul has sent out draft minimum qualification rules that have been in the works for years. There have been lots of changes since then. Leaders have left, we've merged with Tax & Finance. A lot of work and formality is required for changing rules. The old rules based qualification on education and years of experience. The new rules are geared toward certifications and specific designations. He asked for feedback on the new rules. He has already gotten a lot of feedback from the county directors, and they are not in favor of changing the rules.

Paul Warneck said he is expecting a lot of retirements by 2013, but we can't start apprenticeships now to prepare for vacancies . My county would like the ability to promote from within. He's also concerned about the effect of the new qualifications for assessors on the smaller towns.

Cathy Conklin said that the county directors have been vocal about the new rules not being sufficient to get qualified people into office.

Paul Warneck doesn't want to make it so that towns can't find local candidates, or have assessors pile more parcels on than they can handle.

Cathy C. asked if we should be slowing down on this, rather than working to have these rules in place for the 2013 cycle. These rules have changed substantially since the former director proposed them. We need to be in the planning process to fill the holes that will open up in 2013.

Christine Fusco said that if we don't get this ready for 2013 we're looking at another six years. She said her organization says to go forward.

The group should supply Paul Szwedo with feedback from the meetings that are being held in the next couple weeks. Send comments within 2 - 3 weeks.

Tom Frey asked if ORPTS is going to provide cost estimates for their educational program. Paul Szwedo said that he does not intend to unless directed by his bosses.

Meeting Wrap-Up. The group discussed the location of future meetings.

Tim Murphy proposed having the next RPTAC meeting in Syracuse, as a one-day meeting.

Alan said that the Wade Road facility is available for our meetings, and people are free to walk around there.

Susan Savage said she will look into the possibility of ORPTS people being able to travel and do a one-day.

The meeting will be in the Albany area next time, either Malta or Wade Road, and we will be prepared to discuss a change of place.

The next meeting will be Wednesday, August 10 and Thursday, August 11, 2011.

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