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Volume 8 - Opinions of Counsel SBEA No. 54

Opinions of Counsel index

Board of assessment review (composition of village board) (quorum) - General Construction Law, § 41; Real Property Tax Law, §§ 523, 1408:

Regardless of the composition of a village board of review, a majority of its members must be present when the board meets to hear complaints with respect to assessments.

We have been asked about the composition of a village board of review and whether a quorum of the village board of trustees must be present at the meeting held to hear complaints relating to assessments pursuant to section 1408 of the Real Property Tax Law (RPTL). Section 1408 provides that a village board of review may be constituted in one of three ways:

(1) the board of trustees and assessors;

(2) a committee of the board of trustees constituting at least a majority thereof and the assessors; or

(3) a board of assessment review constituted pursuant to section 523 of the RPTL.

Regardless of how the village’s board of assessment review is constituted, section 41 of the General Construction Law requires that a majority of its members be present at the time it meets to hear complaints. Section 41 provides in pertinent part:

Whenever three or more public officers are given any power or authority, or three or more persons are charged with any public duty to be performed or exercised by them jointly or as a board or similar body, a majority of the whole number of such persons or officers, at a meeting duly held at a time fixed by law, shall constitute a quorum and not less than a majority of the whole number may perform and exercise such power, authority or duty.  [Emphasis added].

Pursuant to subdivision one of section 1408, the village board of review is “charged with a public duty” to “meet to hear complaints in relation to assessments brought before it”. That being so, “not less than a majority of the whole number” may perform the duty of holding such hearing. If less than such majority is present, the hearings would be of no force and effect.

A board member who is not present to hear a complaint, but later reviews the minutes of the hearing, may participate in the determination of the board with respect to that complaint. This conclusion is based upon the decision in Taub v. Pirnie, 3 N.Y.2d 188, 144 N.E.2d 3, 165 N.Y.S.2d 1 (1957), where the Court of Appeals held that a member of the Village of Scarsdale Board of Appeals, who was not present at a hearing with respect to an application for a zoning variance, could nonetheless vote on the application at a later meeting concerning same provided he had information sufficient to make an informed determination. This does not mean, however, that less than a majority of the board may sit to hear complaints.

April 25, 1985