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Volume 10 - Opinions of Counsel SBRPS No. 118

Opinions of Counsel index

Public records (verified list of changes in assessments); Assessment review, Board of (verified list of changes) (public record) - Public Officers Law, § 87; Real Property Tax Law, § 525:

The verified list of changes in assessments which the board of assessment review gives to the assessor is a public record.

We have been asked if the verified list of changes in assessments (Real Property Tax Law, § 525(4)) given by the board of assessment review to the assessor is a public record available for inspection and copying under the State’s Freedom of Information Law (Public Officers Law, Art. 6). In our opinion, that list is a public record.

Section 525(4) provides, in part, “The members of the board of assessment review or a majority of them shall prepare and verify a statement showing the changes determined to be made by them in the assessments.” Section 526(5) of the RPTL provides:

5.  As soon as possible after receiving the verified statement prepared by the board of assessment review pursuant to [RPTL, § 525(3) {1}], the assessor shall make the changes in assessments on the assessment roll in accordance with such verified statement, shall certify on such verified statement that he has recorded on the assessment roll the changes set forth in such verified statement and shall file such verified statement with the final assessment roll filed pursuant to [RPTL, § 516].

Section 516(2) of the RPTL provides, “The certified copy of the final assessment roll shall be retained in the office of the city or town clerk as a public record for a minimum of ten years from the date the final assessment roll was filed” (emphasis added).

In addition, we have previously noted that “Most assessment records are public records” (10 Op.Counsel SBRPS No. 4). In that opinion, we noted the quoted section 516(2) as well as the comparably worded section 506(3) which provides that the tentative assessment roll is also a public record (subject to a five year retention period). The verified list of changes, of course, is the document the assessor utilizes to convert the tentative assessment roll into the final assessment roll. Since both of those rolls are statutorily defined to be public records, there can be no doubt that the mesne document (i.e., the verified list of changes) that connects these two public records is a public record itself. {2}

November 14, 2000

{1}  The quoted sentence of section 525(4) was formerly included in section 525(3) until it was redesignated (by L.1996, c.541).

{2}  We note that while FOIL generally provides that inter-agency and intra-agency materials need not be disclosed (Public Officers Law, § 87(2)(g)), such records are nevertheless subject to disclosure if they constitute “statistical or factual tabulations or data” (§ 87(2)(g)(i)) or are “final agency policy or determinations” (§ 87(2)(g)(iii)). The verified list of changes would appear to fit within one or both of these exceptions to the statutory FOIL exemption, so, even if we were to consider the assessor and the board of assessment review to be separate “agencies” under FOIL (Public Officers Law, § 86(3)), the verified list of changes would be publicly available under such law.