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Department of Taxation and Finance

Minutes for October 21, 2015

Real Property Tax Administration Committee

Minutes: October 21, 2015

Location: Vernon Downs (Onondaga County)

In Attendance


  • Patrick Duffy
  • Dennis Ketcham
  • Todd Wiley
  • Roger Tibbetts
  • Terri Ross
  • Sue Otis
  • Warren Wheeler

County Directors

  • Jay Franklin
  • Tim Murphy
  • Suzette Booy
  • Daniel Martonis
  • Tom Bloodgood


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

Additional persons present

  • Matt Trapasso
  • Tobias Lake
  • Rochelle Harris
  • Steve Harris
  • Eric Axelsen
  • Paul Warneck

Facilitator: Alan Kresge

Recorder: Jim McGovern


Get Organized

Change to minutes. Added to the minutes the fact that the NYC trial court decision regarding the status of fiber optic cable was upheld by the Appellate Court.

Minutes of the previous meeting were approved.

Warren Wheeler added as an Assessor for RPTAC. Assessors still hold only six votes in any voting matters.


Action Items

No active action items


ORPTS Update

Susan Savage updated the committee on the Price Waterhouse Cooper (PWC) internal study.

She thanked everyone for their participation and understanding. The report recommends several actions:

  • Additional staff to support valuable services
  • Moving forward with RPS V5
  • Updates to other technologies
  • Possible shifting of level 1 call support to DTF Call Center

There was discussion over the availability of the document. The document is still in draft form and therefore not available for open dissemination.

There were several questions on recommendations. It will be the determination of DoB if there is to be increased budget for staff.  Contracting for utility valuation may be considered if there is a void to fill.  And Training Unit consolidation is more of a software merger versus a people move.  The TopClass license is ending and training will be moving to SLMS.

There was discussion over who will do complex appraisals for revaluation projects. Susan informed the committee that ORPTS will meet its statutory obligations.





Matt Trapasso reported that the study indicates a need for improved communication and feedback. A brainstorming session for ideas in this area then occurred.  Some of the ideas were:

  • Sharing of pertinent legal cases
  • Searchable database of given legal advice
  • FAQs (including a means of input for the locals)
  • System for assessors and county directors to ask questions
  • Improved Opinions of Counsel search functionality
  • Strong regional presence with better informed staff
  • Improved website functionality and design including better search
  • Presence of ORPTS staff at county assessor association meetings
  • Assessment Community has too much security (easier password guidelines)
  • Emails should come from one person rather than a group mailbox
  • Newsletter to introduce new DTF staff
  • Tighter schedule of training classes (currently too difficult to complete required classes on time)
  • Revival of the Property Tax Monitor
  • More communication from ORPTS about knowing who has left ORPTS and who is still there as contact people



Pat Duffy inquired about the survey that DTF was conducting on its own. Matt responded that outreach continues.

Matt thanked everyone for their brainstorming contributions and said that work on communication will continue.


Legislative Update

Joe informed the group that Assessors and County Directors had already been updated. Highlights of bills included:

  • Fixing STAR Registration issues
  • Tax Cap extension
  • Property Tax Relief Credit
  • Tweaks to exemptions

There was a discussion on tax exemption status of for-profit solar installations on tax exempt (school, municipal) parcels led by Paul Warneck. Joe advised that (in a non-binding opinion) when the panels are owned by a for-profit company they are not exempt.  Joe also advised that requests should be submitted through the proper channels.


Legislative Update (continued)

Dennis asked if an assessor’s guide similar to the alt. vets one could be created. It was responded that the possibility will be considered.

Joe provided a quick explanation of the differences between the conservation exemptions available under 487 and 487-a.

Property Tax Relief Credit

Tim provided a handout.

The new credit starts in 2016 and will be a fixed dollar amount in the first year. From 2017-2019 the credit amount will be based upon STAR savings amounts and income.  The goal is to have checks issued each October.

The question of how ORPTS knows of corrected STAR exemptions was raised. ORPTS relies on information received from Assessors.

There was discussion over the provisions of ineligibility based upon being 60 days late on taxes. Tim advised that all of the mechanics of administration were not yet in place.

It was asked if taxpayers had to simply be eligible for STAR or actually receiving STAR. The response was that they must be actually receiving the exemption.


Property Tax Freeze

Tim reported that $225 million was issued in the last year with the average check being $95.

It was asked if all municipalities have submitted tax cap information. Tim responded that they have not all done so.

It was advised that if jurisdictions had passed override authorizations but did not actually go over, then the authorization should be rescinded to meet cap requirements.

Questions on the program were raised. Special legislation was passed to assist those who registered but did not apply for STAR in 2014.  What happens if these taxpayers have still not applied?  Tim responded that the law was only for 2014 and that the taxpayers are required to apply to receive the exemption after that.  It was also asked how new applicants for STAR will be income verified?  The answer is that they will be required to register.

It was also mentioned that STAR should be moved to ORPTS.





Complex Advisory Appraisals

Tim reported that the PWC study recommended examining either short or long term hiring to help with complex advisories.

A discussion ensued concerning the ability of ORPTS to perform complex advisories. Also discussed was how much input assessors would have in picking personnel to be hired for their appraisals.


Selective Reassessment

Todd Wiley started a discussion on the gray areas involved in adjusting individual assessments and what can assessors do to protect themselves from accusations of selective reassessment. He asked for official guidance to assist in this.  It was expressed that this can be achieved through a comprehensive and equitable written plan.  Tom Bloodgood referred the group to the old annual reassessment plans with the exception of not going to 100% level of assessment.  This would be looking at the issue as assessment analysis.  It was brought to attention that Opinions of Counsel vol. 10 no. 60 and vol. 11 no.14 are available on this subject.  Jay Franklin reported to the group that Publication 1029 is available on the DTF website and concerns this subject.



Tim reported the PWC study recommends going ahead with V5 and that the RFP is being reviewed to be improved. There was discussion over whether DTF will be able to attract bidders who meet the requirements this time.  Tim says they are confident after analysis that a successful RFP can be made.  Some wish list items will become desirables rather than mandatory.

There was discussion over what will be done to keep V4 stable as upgrades to Windows 10 occur. Mike Griffen will be consulted on this (action item).


Agricultural Assessment

There was discussion on the new addition of log grown mushrooms to eligible crop land use. There is concern that woodland acreage can be claimed as cropland with mushrooms. Paul Warneck advised the checking of soil worksheets.

It was requested that the Ag Primer be updated to reflect all the new recent changes to the program. It was reported that Bob Wright and Jeremy Kergel will be doing that and will share a draft with the group.


State’s Statutory Duties

Tim provided a handout. The discussion will be tabled to allow the group to review the handout before discussion (action item)


Bar Code Project

Tim Murphy reported that there is no consistency between counties over whether the bar coded 5217 is required and requested that use of the form be made mandatory. Tim Maher asked if all counties have agreed that this is what is wanted?  That is unknown.  There was then a discussion on form fields, the strictness of completeness required by County Clerks, and what tweaks to the form might be needed.  It was suggested that guidelines to use of the form should be developed and posted online.  It was agreed that a sub-team is needed to explore these issues such as whether the form should be mandatory, should the form be changed, and should the directions be changed.  Paul advised that the form should be examined with an eye toward V5.


Sub Group Activity Updates

The Property Class Code Team reported that it is following up with new codes. Pat Duffy informed the group that a new ORPTS member is needed for the sub-team.  ORPTS will respond with a new member (action item).


Wrap Up

Next meeting is February 3 at the Indigo in Colonie