Skip universal navigation

New York State Universal header

Skip to main content

Volume 5 - Opinions of Counsel SBEA No. 47

Opinions of Counsel index

Agricultural exemption (scope) (county-wide solid waste collection and disposal system) - Agriculture and Markets Law, § 305(5); County Law, § 226-b:

The provisions of subdivision (5) of section 305 of the Agriculture and Markets Law, which exempts lands within an agricultural district from benefit assessments and special ad valorem levies for sewer, water, lighting, non-farm drainage, and solid waste disposal or other landfill operations unless such charges were imposed prior to the formation of the agricultural district, do not apply where a county-wide collection and disposal system for solid waste is established pursuant to section 226-b of the County Law with the costs of such system to be met by the general tax levy.

We have been informed that a county has established a county-wide collection and disposal system for solid waste under the provisions of section 226-b of the County Law with local costs to be raised by general tax levy. Our opinion is requested as to what effect the provisions of subdivision 5 of section 305 of Article 25AA of the Agriculture and Markets Law (Agricultural Districts Law) may have with respect to this method of financing.

It is noted that section 226-b of the County Law empowers the legislative body of a county acting in its governmental capacity to provide for the collection and disposition of solid waste as a county function other than through the creation of a district, and it is indicated that such service is to be financed from general county taxes supported by a general tax levy. It is also noted that pursuant to the provisions of Article 5-A of the County Law, counties have the option of providing for the collection, treatment and disposal of sewage by establishing a special district. This law provides that the financing of such district may be by special ad valorem levy (§ 270) or special assessment (§ 271) imposed upon benefited real property. (As to financing through user charges under County Law, § 266, see, Y.M.C.A. v. Rochester Pure Water Dist., 37 N.Y.2d 371, 334 N.E.2d 586, 372 N.Y.S.2d 633.) A special ad valorem levy is a charge for a special district improvement or service imposed upon benefited property in the same manner and at the same time as taxes for municipal purposes (Real Property Tax Law, § 102(14)). A special assessment is defined to mean a charge imposed upon benefited real property in proportion to the benefit received by such property to defray the cost of a special district or service (Real Property Tax Law, § 102(15)).

Subdivision 5 of section 305 of the Agriculture and Markets Law (as amended by L.1975, c.717) provides as follows:

5. Limitation on power to impose benefit assessments or special ad valorem levies in certain improvement districts or benefit areas. Within improvement districts or areas deemed benefited by town improvements for sewer, water, lighting, non-farm drainage, solid waste disposal or other landfill operations, no benefit assessments or special ad valorem levies may be imposed on land used primarily for agricultural production within an agricultural district on the basis of frontage, acreage, or value, except a lot not exceeding one-half acre surrounding any dwelling or non-farm structure located on said land unless such benefit assessment or ad valorem levies were imposed prior to the formation of the agricultural district.

Pursuant to the above-quoted subdivision 5, land within an agricultural district eligible for an agricultural value assessment is exempt from special ad valorem levies and benefit assessments for sewer, water, lighting, non-farm drainage, and solid waste disposal or other landfill operations unless such charges were imposed prior to the formation of the agricultural district.

Noting that the costs in question are to be raised by a general tax levy with the municipality acting in its governmental capacity, and that general taxes, as the term is normally used, are imposed generally for governmental purposes without reference to peculiar benefits to particular property, it is our opinion that the provisions of the above-quoted subdivision 5 do not apply where a county-wide collection and disposal system for solid waste is established under the provisions of section 226-b of the County Law with costs to be raised by a general tax levy. It is further observed that eligible lands within an agricultural district will nonetheless benefit since the taxable assessment of such lands is limited to an agricultural value assessment ceiling and the excess amount of value is exempt from charges imposed for general municipal or school district purposes.

November 18, 1975

Updated: