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Volume 8 - Opinions of Counsel SBEA No. 1

Opinions of Counsel index

Approved assessing units (revaluations) (base assessment roll - selection) - Real Property Tax Law, §§ 1901, 1903; 9 NYCRR 190-4.6:

An assessing unit which completed two revaluations between 1971 and 1981 may choose as its base assessment roll either pre-revaluation roll to be used to determine base proportions pursuant to RPTL, § 1903.

A Town has applied to become certified as an “approved assessing unit” (9 NYCRR 190-4.6(g)) on the basis of its 1973 assessment roll and is considering adoption of section 1903 of the Real Property Tax Law (RPTL), by local law, to permit taxes to be levied on the basis of homestead and non-homestead base proportions. Revalued assessment rolls were filed for the Town in both 1973 and 1975.

We have been asked whether this Town may either modify or withdraw and resubmit its application for approved assessing unit status so that certification would be based on its 1975 roll. The question arises because implementation of section 1903 requires classification of the assessment roll immediately preceding the revalued roll, and classification of the Town’s 1972 roll, in this situation, is either impossible or much more difficult than classification of the 1974 roll.

Section 1903 governs the adoption and use of homestead and non-homestead base proportions. Essentially, this section authorizes approved assessing units to identify the class tax shares on the pre-revaluation assessment roll and to maintain these tax shares after the revaluation. Paragraph (a) of subdivision two of section 1903 provides in part that “[t]he governing body of each assessing unit which has adopted the provisions of this section shall in the first year in which this section shall apply, establish a homestead base proportion and a non-homestead base proportion . . .”.

Subdivisions (f) and (q) of section 1901 of the RPTL define the terms “homestead base proportion” and “non-homestead base proportion” as the percentage of total taxable assessed value that each class constituted on the “base assessment roll”. Subdivision (1) defines the term “base assessment roll” as “the assessment roll completed in the year immediately preceding the first year” (Emphasis added).

The term “first year” is defined as “the first year in which revaluation assessments are used in determining assessments in an approved assessing unit” (§ 1901(b)) (emphasis added), while a “revaluation assessment” is “the assessment determined by the assessor in accordance with the provisions of subdivision two of section three hundred five of this chapter [RPTL] in the first year of a revaluation and the assessment so determined by the assessor for use in each year thereafter” (§ 1901(a)) (emphasis added).

The State Board’s rules require approved assessing units which elect to levy taxes on the basis of homestead and non-homestead base proportions to classify the base assessment roll, as well as the current assessment roll, the roll on which approved assessing unit status was granted and the initial assessment roll on which the revaluation was entered (9 NYCRR 190-4.2(a)).

Thus, the first issue is whether the Town completed two “revaluations” - one in 1973 and the other in 1975. If the Town actually completed only one revaluation, then the assessment roll to be classified and used to determine homestead and non-homestead base proportions clearly would be the roll completed in the year immediately preceding implementation of the revaluation. However, should it be that the Town completed two revaluations, then the second issue which must be considered is which pre-revaluation roll should be used to determine the base proportions.

Article 19 of the RPTL does not define the term “revaluation”. Subdivision (i) of section 1901 defines the term “approved revaluation” as “a revaluation completed after January first, nineteen hundred seventy-one in conformance with the rules and regulations of the state board promulgated under article fifteen-B of this chapter [RPTL; see 9 NYCRR 192] . . .”. Although it appears that the term “approved revaluation” is not used anywhere in Article 19, we believe it is indicative of legislative intent.

Therefore, the State Board’s rules relating to approved assessing units define a “revaluation” as “the process by which the uniform percentage of value of all real property is determined and entered on an assessment roll completed and filed on or after January 1, 1971, as provided in sections 192-1.2 and 192-1.4 of this Chapter” (9 NYCRR 190-4.1(n)). {*}  To be distinguished is an “update”, which is defined as “the reappraisal and analysis of the value for all parcels in an assessing unit in a year subsequent to a revaluation for the purpose of maintaining a uniform percentage of assessed value on the assessment roll” (9 NYCRR 190-4.1(s); emphasis added).

Assuming that the Town completed revaluations in both 1973 and 1975, neither the terminology in section 1903 nor the associated definitions in section 1901 address the issue of which assessment roll should be used for determining homestead and non-homestead base proportions. (It is our interpretation of the law that revaluations completed prior to January 1, 1971 are not to be considered for purposes of Article 19 (see, § 1901(i)). It seems implicit in the statute that where the initial revaluation was completed after December 3, 1981, homestead and non-homestead base proportions must be determined on the basis of the assessment roll immediately preceding the roll used as the basis for certification as an approved assessing unit (see, §§ 1902(2), 1905(2)). However, there is nothing in Article 19 to suggest whether one roll or the other should be used where, as here contended, two “revaluations” were completed between January 1, 1971 and December 3, 1981.

In this situation, it is important to recognize that section 1903, as added by chapter 1057 of the Laws 1981, is part of a comprehensive legislative program to provide assessing units with a variety of local options to ameliorate tax shifts which could result from a revaluation. Implicit in this legislation is that policy that local governments should have flexibility in fashioning local tax incidence to fit local circumstances.

Therefore, in the absence of a plain statutory requirement, where an assessing unit completed two revaluations between 1971 and 1981, we see no reason for limiting the assessing unit’s choice as to which pre-revaluation roll will be used to determine homestead and non-homestead base proportions. Any other conclusion would suggest a legislative intent favoring the class tax shares on either the earlier or later pre-revaluation assessment roll, and we have found no evidence that the Legislature favored either one.

Accordingly, if the Town completed revaluations in 1973 and 1975, then we conclude that as part of its responsibility for establishing homestead and non-homestead base proportions pursuant to section 1903, the Town Board must also determine whether to classify the 1972 or 1974 roll.

May 3, 1984

{*}  9 NYCRR 192 sets forth standards for a system of real property tax administration for purposes of determining eligibility for State aid under RPTL, Article 15-B. Section 192-1.2 [now subpart 192-3] sets forth standards for a system for collection and maintenance of real property valuation data and the maintenance of records of transfers of real property; section 192-1.4 [now subpart 192-4] sets forth standards for a system for the full disclosure to owners of real property as to the estimated effect of any changes in the assessed valuation of real property.