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Volume 5 - Opinions of Counsel SBEA No. 75

Opinions of Counsel index

Board of Assessment Review (assessor’s attendance at hearings; meetings) (terms of office) (chairman, powers and duties) - Real Property Tax Law, § 1524:

The assessor is to attend all hearings of the board of assessment review at which assessment complaints are heard, but he may not be present at the board’s meeting to determine grievances.

It is advisable for the board of assessment review to annually appoint one of its members as chairman. The appointment of a chairman should help to facilitate grievance day proceedings, but he has no additional powers and duties as to grievance determinations. Both he and other members of the board may call for a meeting of such board upon reasonable notice to all of the members of the board.

The term of office of a member of the board of assessment review commences on October 1 and terminates on September 30, five years thereafter, except for the members of the first board of assessment review who were appointed for staggered terms.

Our opinion has been requested concerning the board of assessment review. The independent board of assessment review was established pursuant to section 1524 of the Real Property Tax Law. Section 1524 is contained within Article 15-A, the so-called Assessment Improvement Law.

The first question is whether the assessor is to be present during the post-grievance day deliberations of the board of review, at which time grievances are acted upon. As originally enacted, subdivision 3 of section 1524 provided that it was the duty of the assessor to attend “all hearings and meetings of the board of assessment review.” However, this subdivision was amended (L.1973, c.551) to delete the words “and meetings.” In our opinion, it was never intended that the assessor be required or authorized to attend executive sessions of the board of assessment review wherein determinations concerning complaints are made. The 1973 amendment helped to clarify this intent. Accordingly, it is our opinion that the assessor may not be present at the board of assessment review’s meetings during which grievances are acted upon.

The second question concerns the chairman of the board of assessment review. In a prior opinion of this office (1 Op.Counsel SBEA No. 37), we indicated that the members of the board of assessment review should select one of their members to serve as chairman. In that opinion, we suggest that the selection should be accomplished at the board’s organizational meeting. Since the five-year terms of office of the board of assessment review are staggered, the composition of the board may be changed annually should the town board so decide. Accordingly, it seems logical that the “term of office” of the chairman of the board of assessment review should be one year. The position of chairman is not statutorily established. However, one should be appointed to facilitate the administration of the grievance day proceedings (i.e., call the meetings to order, etc.). The chairman of the board of assessment review has no additional powers and duties in regard to grievance determinations except as relate to routine administrative matters.

The next question is what constitutes proper notice to members of the board of assessment review of a meeting of such board and who has the authority to call such a meeting. Subdivision 2 of section 506 of the Real Property Tax Law provides, in part, that “[o]n the third Tuesday of June, the board of assessment review shall meet to hear complaints in relation to assessments.” Thus, the initial hearing of the board of assessment review is set by statute. The board may adjourn to another day for the purpose of hearing additional complaints. While the statute is silent as to who may call additional meetings of the board of review, it would appear that any member of the board, including the chairman, may call for a meeting of the board upon the giving of reasonable notice to the other members. Section 41 of the General Construction Law, provides, in part, that:

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, or by any by-law duly adopted by such board or body, or at any duly adjourned meeting of such meeting, or at any meeting duly held upon reasonable notice to all of them, 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)

The final question is as to the month of the year in which the terms of office of members of the board of assessment review begin. Subdivision 1 of section 1524 provides that the terms of office of members of the board of review shall be five years; however, the terms of the first board were staggered so that not more than one would expire in each of the first five years after the members of such board were appointed. Section 1524 became effective October 1, 1971 (L. 1970, c.957, § 9), and the terms of office of the first board of assessment review began as of that date. Thus, subsequent terms of office also commence on October 1 and terminate on September 30 five years thereafter.

May 20, 1976

NOTE:  See RPTL, sec. 523(1)(3).

Updated: