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Volume 4 - Opinions of Counsel SBEA No. 55

Opinions of Counsel index

Assessments, generally (revaluation program) (“piecemeal” revaluation) - Real Property Tax Law, § 306:

“Piecemeal” revaluation programs in which portions of an assessing unit are revalued and assessed in different years violate the uniformity requirement that all real property be assessed at full value or a uniform percentage of full value.

Our comments have been requested concerning a so-called “piecemeal” revaluation program. A “piecemeal” revaluation is one in which portions of an assessing unit are revalued and assessed in different years.

Section 306 of the Real Property Tax Law provides that all real property shall be assessed at the full value thereof. “Full value” has been construed by numerous judicial decisions to mean the amount which a willing buyer would pay a willing seller under normal circumstances. Although section 306 would appear to require assessors each year to assess each parcel of real property within their jurisdictions at the market value thereof, the courts have determined that the full value standard is satisfied so long as the assessor assesses each parcel at the same percentage of full value. McAlevey v. Williams, 41 App.Div.2d 971, 344 N.Y.S.2d 193; C.H.O.B. Associates, Inc. v. Bd. of Assessors, 45 Misc.2d 184, 257 N.Y.S.2d 31, aff’d, 22 App.Div.2d 1015, 256 N.Y.S.2d 550, aff’d, 16 N.Y.2d 779, 209 N.E.2d 820, 262 N.Y.S.2d 501.

We have been recommending in the last few years that localities undertake revaluation programs because, with inflation, the average percentage at which assessors have been assessing property has declined rapidly and gross inequities have developed among the various parcels on the rolls. The object of a revaluation program is to find the market value or its equivalent for each parcel of real property within the jurisdiction as of the same period price level. Where this is done in the revaluation program, the assessments placed on the roll should represent full value or the same percentage of full value for each parcel.

This should demonstrate immediately what could be wrong with “piecemeal” revaluations. Suppose an assessor undertakes a three year program and in the first year finds the full value of one-third of his parcels as of January 1 of that year. He then assesses these parcels on the roll at 100 percent of the full value estimated as of that January 1. The assumption, of course, is undoubtedly merited that the remaining two-thirds are assessed at some percentage substantially below 100 percent. Obviously, the uniformity requirement (same percentage of full value) has been violated to the injury of the one-third placed at 100 percent.

Therefore, as a practical matter, where it is impossible for an assessor to complete a revaluation program within one year (and this is the normal situation), it is recommended that an assessor retain the old assessments during the entire revaluation period updating for construction, demolition, etc., until he has completed the revaluation of all the parcels in the town. Although his period price level could, for example, be three years old for all of the properties, if it takes him 3 years to complete the program, it is felt that greater equality will nonetheless have been achieved by doing so, than either to do a “piecemeal” revaluation or to retain the old assessments forever.

This is not to say, however, that an assessor may not change assessments from year to year. New construction, demolitions, substantial changes in market value, etc. would all require the assessor to examine and update his roll. Where he finds a parcel, a group of parcels or a certain type of parcel which are substantially overassessed or underassessed, he has an obligation to make such changes in the roll as to eliminate the inequities and place these parcels on the assessment roll at the same level of assessment as all other parcels.

November 19, 1974