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Department of Taxation and Finance

Minutes for January 17 - 18, 2013

 

Real Property Tax Administration Committee

Minutes: January 17-18, 2013

Location: Colonie (Albany County)

In Attendance

Assessors

  • Cathy Conklin
  • Bob Criddle
  • Tom Frey
  • Sue Otis
  • Denise Trudell
  • Todd Wiley
  • Curt Schoeberl (alternate)

County Directors

  • Dawn Allen
  • Jay Franklin
  • Steve Harris
  • John McCarey
  • Tim Murphy
  • Paul Warneck
  • Joe Maciejewski (alternate)

ORPTS

  • Teresa Frank
  • Joe Gerberg
  • Pat Holland
  • Tim Maher
  • Susan Savage

Facilitator - Alan Kresge

Also in attendance: Tammy Cumo, Pat Duffy, Terri Ross

 

Day 1

Get Organized

Minutes of the previous meeting were approved. 

Denise Trudell announced that Tom Frey is retiring as Executive Director of the Assessors' Association on March 31.  Pat Duffy, Assessor for the Town of Manlius (Onondaga County)and Town of West Monroe (Oswego County) will be the new Executive Director.

Legislative Update

Paul Miller updated the group regarding developments in the State Legislature.  He ran the committee through RPT-related bills of particular interest (see handouts).  

  • ORPTS will circulate the list of Assembly RPT Committee members and Senate Local Government Committee members. (Action Item #6)

Agency Update

Susan Savage updated the group on matters pertaining to ORPTS.   She noted that the Governor will announce his Executive Budget proposal on Tuesday 1/22, and the ORPTS budget is expected to be stable.

The Southern Region Office had been expected to relocate out of Newburgh earlier this month.   The move is on hold. 

The Central Region Office will be merging into the Department of Taxation and Finance (DTF) Syracuse Office in June.  

The assessors asked about ORPTS's staffing level.   The Division has 195 staff, which is expected to remain stable.   In addition, there are staff from Counsel's Office, the Communications Office, Office of Policy (Jim Dunne, Paul Miller and others), and other areas that continue to work closely with ORPTS.

The assessors asked if there are formal Opinions of Counsel being written.  Joe Gerberg responded that letters and e-mails are, of course, being written, but are not being edited into an Opinion format. 

  • Joe will re-explore the issue of Opinions of Counsel.

RFI for Replacement of RPSV4

Pat Holland discussed the Request for Information (RFI).   The intention was to gather information from outside entities about options that may be available or could be developed.   The responses to the RFI were due December 3.   ORPTS received 11 responses, which were shared with the RPS Governance Group.   The Governance Group will meet via teleconference to discuss the responses, following which, ORPTS will meet with management about next steps.   Susan noted that DTF Commissioner Thomas Mattox has been very supportive of a replacement for V4.

In response to questions, Pat said that ORPTS would continue to support V4 would be available for the next version and that issues of information security/access would, of course, be considered.

Proposal to Improve STAR

Terri Ross, Assessor for the Town of Queensbury in Warren County, distributed handouts and discussed suggested changes to the STAR Program.   She noted that the most frequent and confusing questions from taxpayers are in regard to the inequities in STAR savings amounts among taxpayers in different assessing units. 

Terri's suggestion involved providing all taxpayers in the same school district (rather than municipality) with the same STAR exemption.   That exemption should be based on $30,000 multiplied by the current year equalization rate.   If there is an adjustment for sales price differential, it should be done by school district, not by county, as is currently done. 

The Assessors' Association plans to include the suggestion in its legislative agenda this year.  

Renunciation of Exemptions

Denise Trudell explained that she has been working to identify STAR "double-dippers" in her town.  She asked about the relevance of the exemption renunciation process.  Joe Gerberg explained that the provision is intended for taxpayers who opt to renounce their exemptions, rather than for assessors to address "double-dippers."

Tom Frey asked if the county director can choose how many years are being renounced.   The answer is that the taxpayer determines how far back to renounce. 

Removal of STAR for State Tax Delinquents

Tim Maher discussed the initiative to remove STAR from individuals with more than $4500 in NYS tax debt.   He distributed an overview of the program and draft letters for property owners.   Approximately 8,000 taxpayers meet the criteria and could lose their exemptions.   The first letters will go out in February, with a follow-up letter in April.   Assessors will be notified in June of STAR removal for specific taxpayers.  

 

Identification and Removal of Inappropriate STAR Exemptions

Tim Maher explained the upcoming ORPTS initiative to reduce the number of individuals receiving multiple STAR exemptions.   He distributed to the group a draft of the letter and form that would be sent to taxpayers suspected of having two exemptions.  

The assessors raised questions about the wording regarding the STAR Income Verification Program, which lead to a discussion about that program.   ORPTS explained that the law gives all applicants for Enhanced STAR the right to participate in STAR IVP if they so desire, provided that they file a State income tax return, and that any assessor who refuses to accept IVP applications is violating the law.  ORPTS will make suggested changes to the draft form to indicate that persons who do not file State income tax returns should not seek to enroll in STAR IVP.

2013 Meetings

After a discussion about one versus two-day meetings, the following were decided upon:

  • June 13-14 - Albany
  • October 24 - Syracuse

Day Two

 

Amendments to RFP for Reassessments

The assessors said that the RFP for reassessments document is out-of-date.  Advancements in technology need to be added.  They suggested that a group be assembled (assessors, county directors, contractors and ORPTS) to discuss this.  ORPTS will put together a group.

  • ORPTS will ask for the assessors and directors to provide 2 members each for the group. (Action Item #7)

Impact of Tax Certiorari decisions on Equalization Rates

Todd Wiley introduced this issue regarding the impact of court-ordered settlements on full value/equalization rates.   There is concern that the current methodology doesn't account for these situations. 

The issue is being handed off to the Equalization Subcommittee.  Pat H. will schedule a meeting in the near future.   The team will report back to RPTAC at the next meeting.  (Action Item #8

Advisory Appraisals

The assessors asked who in ORPTS is responsible for advisory appraisals in light of the retirement of former staff.   ORPTS responded that Tom Bellard is the ORPTS manager responsible for the advisory appraisal program and that typical inquiries should first be directed to CRM's.  

Phil Hembdt discussed a court case decided in 2012 regarding the taxation of fiber-optic cable.   The decision found that such cable is not real property for purposes of local taxation.   However, the decision does not apply to fiber-optic cable in the public right-of-way because of the specific definitions of special franchise.  

Tom Frey suggested that the assessors and county directors promote a legislative change to ensure that fiber-optic cable currently considered special franchise should also be taxable on private property.

Sub-Group Activity Updates

  • Valuation Issues Team - the Data Collection Manual by the team members. The completed manual will be turned over to RPTAC at the next RPTAC meeting.
  • Property Class Code Team - no update
  • Equalization Project Team - The team will meet to discuss the issue discussed by RPTAC today (tax certiorari impact on full value and rates). Pat also noted that, in cases where the RAR is within 5% of the LOA, the LOA will become the rate. Todd provided a handout on this.
  • Sales Processing Team - The team meets on an as-needed basis.

Board of Assessment Review Training

The group discussed the issue of BAR performance and how training may or may not be able to correct some of the issues, particularly in smaller towns.  The group discussed the potential to propose legislation that would somehow regionalize the function - perhaps to disallow members from hearing cases in their own municipalities.

ORPTS is updating the BAR training video/materials and will provide an update at the next RPTAC meeting.  (Action Item #9)

RP-5217 Bar Code Project

Colleen Benson provided an update on the program.  Twelve counties are currently accepting the bar-coded form. 

Cattaraugus is the latest county to be added.   To save on traveling to the county, ORPTS was able to remotely install and monitor the software upgrade and provide a demo in the RPT office, working jointly with county staff.   In addition to saving four staff days, the remote installation saved more than $400 in travel expenses for DTF.  Cayuga, Livingston and Jefferson are the next counties to be added and several more will follow soon after.  Counties will continue to be scheduled through 2013.  

Feedback has been positive. 

In 2014, paper forms will no longer be available from the Department.  

Orange County is receiving about 20 - 25% of their RP-5217's in the bar-coded format.   The County Clerk may make the new form mandatory in June.   Onondaga and Tompkins Counties are receiving 80% of their filings with the barcoded form.  Local attorneys in Tompkins County are at 100% usage with their filings.

Tompkins County is experimenting with a scanned/imaged e-filed 5217 form, but its value is still questionable due to degradation of the bar code.  

Staff is reviewing a proposal by SDG Image Mate (IMO) in which the user would link to the RP-5217-PDF on the DTF website.  The user then identifies the property that requires the RP-5217, the RPS extract in IMO pre-populates specific data items on the form and the barcode is modified to include that info (i.e., property location, names, roll ID, property class, AV, etc.).    

Small Claims Assessment Review

Tom Frey asked some questions about SCAR.  

  • ORPTS will look into the distribution of the $30 filing fees and referred Tom to the Office of Court Administration for additional information. (Action Item #10)

Future Meeting Topics

  • Review the RPTAC charter/purposes and consider if adjustments should be made
  • Tax Certiorari Impact on Equalization Rates (subcommittee report)
  • Update on BAR Training Revisions

 

 

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