To help our clients navigate the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, Keane & Beane is providing Legal Alerts on a variety of issues as they are presented. The information contained in this Legal Alert is applicable as of today, April 23, 2020.
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With the deadline for the initiation of annual assessment roll processes approaching, Governor Cuomo issued Executive Order 202.22 on Monday, April 20, 2020. This Executive Order addresses local assessment practices statewide and tax collection processes within Westchester and Nassau Counties only. A copy of Executive Order 202.22 is attached and may be accessed here.
This Legal Alert addresses the modifications made by Executive Order 202.22 to Article 5 of the New York Real Property Tax Law (“RPTL”) and the Westchester County Tax Law, which relate to real property tax assessment procedures. This office will issue a second, separate Legal Alert addressing how Executive Order 202.22 impacts tax collection processes, including the imposition of tax penalties.
Adjustments to the Assessment Roll Timetable
The Executive Order permits, through the exercise of a local option, an adjournment of assessment roll deadlines for a period of up to thirty (30) days for those assessing jurisdictions that file tentative assessment rolls on either May 1st or June 1st. Thus, tentative assessment rolls for those jurisdictions that follow a May 1st filing date may, upon an exercise of this local option, be filed on or before June 1, 2020 (the thirty  days authorized under the Executive Order falls on Sunday, May 31st, and therefore carries over to Monday, June 1st). Likewise, those Westchester County-based jurisdictions that follow a June 1st filing date may adjourn the filing of the tentative assessment roll to July 1, 2020.
If this option is exercised, the local Grievance Day within these jurisdictions must simultaneously be rescheduled to a date that falls at least twenty-one (21) days after the adjusted filing date of the tentative assessment roll.
The terms of the Executive Order address the adjourned filing of both the tentative and final assessment rolls in a combined fashion. For this reason, if the filing date of the tentative assessment roll is adjusted, the filing date of the final assessment roll should also be changed for a period of up to thirty (30) days. This will result in a rescheduling of the filing date for final assessment rolls to (i) a day on or before July 31, 2020 (for those jurisdictions that follow a May 1st tentative roll date) or (ii) October 15, 2020 (for the Westchester County-based jurisdictions that follow a June 1st tentative roll date).
The Executive Order does not recite the method by which this local option may be exercised. However, as assessment roll filing dates are imposed under general and special legislation, including the RPTL and the Westchester County Tax Law, and the terms of these laws are suspended and modified by the Executive Order, a resolution of the governing body of the assessing jurisdiction affecting these calendar changes (as opposed to local legislation or other emergency means) will suffice.
Modifications to the Assessment Roll Process
The Executive Order also eases certain legal requirements associated with the preparation and finalization of an annual assessment roll. The Executive Order does not link the suspension of these requirements to an adjustment of the assessment roll calendar. Accordingly, the relaxation of these requirements may be observed even if an assessing jurisdiction does not elect to exercise the option of adjourning the filing date of its tentative and final assessment rolls.
First, the Executive Order will allow publication of the tentative assessment roll to be made solely through online means. If noticed through this format, the date of the local Grievance Day must be prominently displayed in the online notice. This will dispense with the necessity of newspaper publication, although we would encourage that this form of notification also be utilized. It further dispenses with particularized notice requirements, such as those stated in §283.121 of the Westchester County Tax Law, which requires posting of a tentative roll filing notice in three or more public places within the assessing jurisdiction and mailed notice to those property owners who have timely filed a written demand for such notification.
Second, the Executive Order suspends the requirements imposed upon assessors under §526 of the RPTL to physically “sit” with a tentative assessment roll during specified hours and days of the week, including a Saturday. Although this RPTL requirement is somewhat anachronistic, it serves the salient purpose of facilitating dialogue between assessors and affected property owners/taxpayers before an assessment roll is finalized. For this reason, it is recommended that assessors endeavor to fulfill this objective by advising the public of hours in which they will be available to participate in telephonic conferences regarding the tentative assessment roll prior to Grievance Day.
Finally, the Executive Order allows Boards of Assessment Review to conduct business, including the hearing of complaints, by way of teleconference or similar services provided the public can listen or view these proceedings. In this regard, Boards of Assessment Review will obtain the relief from the requirements of the Open Meeting Law (the “OML”) afforded under Executive Order 202.1. These OML requirements, as modified by Executive Order 202.1, are addressed in the Legal Alert issued by Keane & Beane, P.C. on March 31, 2020, available here.
Because of the manner in which Boards of Assessment Review typically proceed on Grievance Day (often on a “first in, first out” basis), use of remote meeting services (teleconference, Zoom or similar services) should entail pre-scheduling of hearing times with property owners who have filed complaints prior to Grievance Day, and coordination among those who submit on Grievance Day, in order to proceed effectively. Boards of Assessment Review should also be guided by their ability, under §512 of the RPTL, to “adjourn from time to time for the purpose of hearing complaints.” This provision allows for the continued hearing of complaints after Grievance Day and may be utilized to set additional dates and times on which specific grievances may be heard utilizing remote meeting services.
Notably, the Executive Order does not suspend or modify provisions relating to taxable status dates within assessing jurisdictions. Consequently, current taxable status dates remain in place, which will affect the deadline for the filing of exemption applications. Should you have any questions about the Executive Order, its impact on the assessment process or implementation of its local option terms, please contact Judson K. Siebert, Suzanne E. Volpe or any other attorney in our Municipal Law Practice Group.
Prior Keane & Beane Covid-19 Legal Alerts
Keane & Beane, P.C. has prepared several Legal Alerts concerning the Federal and State response to COVID-19 and the impacts on employers and local governments. Our Legal Alerts are available here.