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Volume 4 - Opinions of Counsel SBEA No. 83

Opinions of Counsel index

Assessor (term of office) (cooperative assessment agreement) - Real Property Tax Law, §§ 576, 1522:

A cooperative assessment agreement entered into pursuant to Real Property Tax Law, section 576 may be for an indefinite term although the term of a single appointed assessor functioning pursuant to the agreement is six years. If the agreement terminates, leaving one or more of the municipalities, which had previously been a party to such agreement, without an assessor, the municipality may appoint a successor to complete the unexpired six-year term which would have commenced on October 1, 1971.

Our opinion has been requested concerning the assessor’s term of office in a situation where an assessor functions pursuant to a cooperative assessment agreement (Real Property Tax Law, § 576).

The question concerns a situation where a full time assessor is appointed pursuant to section 1522 of the Real Property Tax Law which mandates a six-year term for single appointed assessors, said term commencing on October 1, 1971 and each six-year period thereafter. The question is if the cooperative agreement must also be for a six-year term.

Subdivision 1 of section 576 provides that a person may be appointed to hold the office of assessor for more than one municipality pursuant to a municipal cooperative agreement entered into in accordance with Article 5-G of the General Municipal Law or any other similar authorization of law. Subdivision 1 of section 119-o of the General Municipal Law provides in part as follows:

1. In addition to any other general or special powers vested in municipal corporations and districts for the performance of their respective functions, powers or duties on an individual, cooperative, joint or contract basis, municipal corporations and districts shall have power to enter into, amend, cancel and terminate agreements for the performance among themselves or one for the other of their respective functions, powers and duties on a cooperative or contract basis. . . .

Accordingly, it is our opinion that such cooperative agreement may be for any period of time.

Of primary concern is the hypothetical situation where the cooperative agreement is dissolved for one reason or another and each or several of the municipalities is left without an assessor. It is clear that the municipalities involved are committed to an appointed assessor once the option in section 1557 has been exercised.

As we have previously stated:

Where a vacancy is created in the office of assessor by the death or resignation of the incumbent, a successor may be appointed but only for the balance of the unexpired six-year term which commenced on October 1, 1971 (2 Op.Counsel SBEA No. 42).

In our opinion, because of the complications which can arise out of different retirement and hospitalization plans, social security payments and workmen’s compensation coverage, where two or more municipalities enter into a cooperative agreement, we feel the most efficient method which the municipalities may take, in order to avoid these and other problems, is to designate one municipality as the employer of the assessor. The other municipalities would then, by the terms of the cooperative agreement, agree to share in the primary employer-town’s costs. Where any or all of the towns are left without an assessor, a successor should be appointed in the above-stated manner.

February 21, 1975