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Volume 4 - Opinions of Counsel SBEA No. 75

Opinions of Counsel index

Special franchise assessments (review of State Board assessment) - Real Property Tax Law, §§ 610, 740:

Either a special franchise owner or the assessing unit in which the special franchise property is located may complain to the Board concerning the assessment made by the State Board of such property, and a hearing will be held by the Board to consider such complaint. If the special franchise owner is thereafter dissatisfied with the determination, the owner may seek judicial review pursuant to Title 2 of Article 7 of the Real Property Tax Law. The assessing unit may not bring such a proceeding if it is dissatisfied with the hearing determination.

We have received several questions concerning the review of an assessment of special franchise property owned by a utility company in a town.

The procedure for seeking a reduction of a special franchise assessment calls for the utility to file a complaint with the State Board. Pursuant to subdivision 1 of section 610 of the Real Property Tax Law a copy of such complaint must be served on the town. Section 610 also entitles an assessing unit to complain about a special franchise assessment. A written complaint must be served on the State Board specifying objections at least ten days before the day specified for the hearing of complaints concerning such assessment.

Pursuant to section 612 of the Real Property Tax Law a hearing is held before the duly authorized representative of the State Board in Albany, New York. (The provisions of section 512 of the Real Property Tax Law apply so far as practicable to the hearing of complaints on special franchise assessments.) Transcripts of such hearing are filed in the offices of the State Board in Albany.

The final question is whether a municipality has any recourse after the State Board makes its final determination based on such hearing. Judicial review of the final special franchise assessment is available under Title 2 of Article 7 of the Real Property Tax Law to the special franchise owner. Such a review is not available to municipalities although courts have granted municipalities the right to intervene in an action brought by the special franchise owner against the State Board (Real Property Tax Law, § 740). The hearing before the board (of which the town is notified) is the forum for the administrative review of special franchise assessments.

The only other remedy which might be available to the town would be an Article 78 (Civil Practice Law and Rules) judicial proceeding against the State Board on the ground that its actions were arbitrary, capricious or illegal.

January 20, 1975