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Volume 9 - Opinions of Counsel SBEA No. 111

Opinions of Counsel index

Board of assessment review (hearings; meetings) (recessed hearing) - General Construction Law, § 41; Real Property Tax Law, §§ 524, 525:

A board of assessment review, which, because of the religious observances of a majority of its members, cannot comply with the statutory minimum number of hours for its hearing, must reconvene on another date. New complaints may be filed at such recessed hearing.

We have been presented with a situation where a board of assessment review will not be able to meet for the requisite hours on the fourth Tuesday in May because a religious holiday begins on the evening of that date. We have been asked what procedures the board should follow to comply with the provisions of Real Property Tax Law (RPTL), sections 512 and 525, which require the board to meet on the fourth Tuesday in May for a period of four hours, not necessarily continuous, between 9:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m., with at least two hours being after 6:00 p.m.

Since three of the five members of the board of assessment review will be observing the holiday, they will not be able to meet for the two hours after 6:00 p.m. on the fourth Tuesday in May. Accordingly, once those members leave the hearing, there will no longer be a quorum, and the board will not be able to conduct any further business that day. This is because section 41 of the General Construction Law requires that a majority of the board’s members be present at the time it meets to hear complaints. In the case of a five-member board of assessment review, three members make a quorum.

Since section 525 of the RPTL requires the board to meet for four hours, the board must continue with the hearing on another date when a quorum of the board can be present to hear complaints. However, if this later hearing were viewed as an adjourned hearing, the board could not accept new complaints at that time (RPTL, § 524(1)). Such a result would be unfair to property owners who were not given the full four-hour period in which to file complaints with the board on the statutory date. The assessment review provisions of Articles 5 and 7 of the RPTL are remedial in nature (see, Great Eastern Mall, Inc. v. Condon, 36 N.Y.2d 544, 330 N.E.2d 628, 369 N.Y.S.2d 672 (1975)); so the interpretation to be given those provisions should advance a taxpayer’s right to assessment review.

Accordingly, where the board of assessment review is forced to meet on a second day, because it was unable to sit for the minimum number of hours on the first day, we would not characterize this as an adjourned hearing, but as a continuation of the original hearing. In our opinion, then, property owners should be permitted to file complaints at this recessed hearing.

March 26, 1993