Galef Announces Governor Signs New Law Affecting Municipal Boards of Assessment Review Throughout New York State

Legislation will prevent and penalize unethical conduct by Members of the Board of Assessment Review
August 23, 2006
Assemblywoman Sandy Galef announces the addition of two new laws that change the way local Boards of Assessment Review function to prevent and penalize inappropriate conduct by individual members.

The first law (Chapter 406) increases the civil fine from $250 to $1,000 for a member of the Board of Assessment Review who fails to disclose an interest in a piece of property undergoing reassessment. The second law (Chapter 503) allows for any municipality to enter into an inter-municipal agreement with another municipality within the county when a member of the Board of Assessment Review has an interest in the property to be reviewed. Both bills were sponsored in the Senate by Senator Vincent Leibell.

In 2005, four out of five members of the Putnam Valley Assessment Review Board heard each other's property grievances and reduced those properties’ assessments, giving rise to public outcry. The four members received fines of $250 because they did not disclose their interest in their properties under review as currently stipulated in existing real property tax law, and the new legislation was created to prevent future similar incidents.

Chapter 406 increases the civil fine amount from $250 to $1,000 while retaining the current definition of ‘interest’ in a property. Currently, members appointed to the board of assessment review are required to disclose on a state board of assessment review form any direct or indirect interest they have in any property for which a complaint has been filed. Examples of a direct or indirect interest include the following: when a member or his/her spouse or child(ren) owns the property, has a position with a firm that owns or leases the property, or owns stock in a company that owns or leases the property.

Chapter 503 applies to the situation when a member of a local board of assessment review has a direct or indirect interest in the property being reviewed by that board. The municipality may enter into an inter-municipal agreement with another municipality in the county allowing the complaint to be heard in the other locale. The purpose of this amendment is to promote ethical behavior and public scrutiny of the board of assessment review members who have assessment grievances which under present law can only be heard by other members of the same board.

“The new legislation will help municipalities to clarify the role of the Board of Assessment Review members when they wish to have their own properties reviewed for tax assessment purposes, to prevent similar situations to that of Putnam Valley from ever occurring again,” said Assemblywoman Sandy Galef.