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Volume 9 - Opinions of Counsel SBEA No. 102

Opinions of Counsel index

Villages (non-assessing units) (pro rata veterans exemption) - Real Property Tax Law, §§ 458(5), 1402(3):

A village local law to pro rate eligible funds veterans exemptions following a full value revaluation continues in effect after the village terminates its status as an assessing unit. However, it is then the responsibility of the town assessor to pro rate veterans exemptions on the village tax roll on the basis of the assessed values appearing on the town’s assessment roll filed prior to the town’s full value revaluation.

We have been asked for our opinion concerning the applicability of the pro rata provision of the eligible funds veterans exemption, Real Property , Tax Law (RPTL), section 458(5), to a village which has ceased to be an assessing unit (RPTL, § 1402(3); 9 NYCRR 190-1.6(a)).

Prior to terminating its assessing unit status, the village adopted a local law {1} to pro rate veterans exemptions following a full value revaluation. Also prior to terminating its assessing unit status (by a 1991 local law), the village utilized the town roll as the basis for the village assessment roll (RPTL, § 1402(2); 9 NYCRR 190-1.6(c)). In so using the town roll, however, it was the village assessor’s practice to double the town’s assessed values.

This practice had the effect of diminishing the effect of fixed dollar exemptions such as the eligible funds veterans exemption, (RPTL, § 458). That is, taken as a proportion of the assessment, a veteran’s exemption on the village assessment roll would be one-half of that same veteran’s exemption on the town assessment roll. For example, the town assessor might have granted a $2,000 veterans exemption to a parcel assessed for $8,000 on the town assessment roll (i.e., 25%). In preparing the village assessment roll, the village assessor would double the town assessment to $16,000. Applying the $2,000 veterans exemption would result in an exemption of 12 1/2 percent.

Now that the village has terminated its assessing status, the village board of trustees has requested that the town assessor maintain the village’s (lower) pro rata percentages for village tax purposes. We believe there is no authority for the town assessor to do this.

In 8 Op.Counsel SBEA No. 16, we expressed the opinion that a village which terminates its assessing unit status retains the right to authorize exemptions which may be granted at the option of a municipal corporation or village. This is because a non-assessing unit village, although it has ceased to be an “assessing unit” (RPTL, § 102(1)), remains both a “municipal corporation” (RPTL, § 102(10)) and a village. In that same opinion, however, we note that it is the town assessor (or, in county assessing units, the county assessor) who determines individual exemptions. We also state therein:

In our opinion, where an assessor assesses property as of a particular taxable status date, there can be but one assessed value of that parcel, notwithstanding the exemption options chosen by the municipalities which will levy taxes against that assessment e.g., town, county, school district, non-assessing unit village). However, the taxable assessed value of the parcel may vary for the various municipal purposes depending on the selected exemption options. (emphasis in original)

RPTL, section 458(5)(a)provides, in part:

If the ratio between the exemption granted under this section and the total assessed value of the real property for which such exemption has been granted increases or decreases due only to a full value assessment in the assessing unit in which such property is located, the amount of the exemption heretofore or hereafter granted may, pursuant to local law adopted by a tax district which levies taxes or for which taxes are levied against such assessment roll on or before [October 31, 1985], be increased or decreased in such subsequent year in the same proportion as the total assessed value has been increased or decreased. (emphasis added)

Here, the village remains a “tax district” as that term is defined in section 458(5)(c). As noted above, however, it is no longer an “assessing unit.” The town is the assessing unit.

Consequently, the only “assessed value,” as that term is used in section 458(5), which now exists, is the town assessed value. The village has no control over those assessed values. Likewise, while the village board of trustees may direct that pro rata exemptions be granted for village purposes, {2} it cannot determine those exemption percentages. The village’s assessments (and level of assessment) became irrelevant when the village terminated its assessing unit status. Instead, the town’s pre-revaluation percentages of exemption apply, and it is these percentages which will be apparent from an examination of the village tax roll.

December 28, 1992

{1}  Local laws to pro rate eligible funds veterans exemptions could be adopted on or before October 31, 1985.

{2}  The village board of trustees, if it wishes, may rescind the pro rata option for village tax purposes (Wright v. Town Board of the Town of Ticonderoga, 169 A.D.2d 190, 572 N.Y.S.2d 397 (3d Dept., 1991), app. den., 79 N.Y.2d 751, 587 N.E.2d 289, 579 N.Y.S.2d 651 (1991).