Thursday, November 11, 2010

Ear to the Ground

There’s a new development in the battle over assessments being waged by the Hudson Property Owners’ Coalition (HPOC). Gossips has received word that earlier this week HPOC attorney Robert L. Beebe filed a sur-reply—a response to the respondents’ response—which asks the Court to strike the reply submitted by the City of Hudson to HPOC’s original petition. The reasons given boil down to this: In the City of Hudson’s response, Paul S. Goldman, the attorney representing the City of Hudson in this matter, “avers that the 2010 assessment roll satisfies the State’s standard for a coefficient of dispersion (COD), the recognized test for assessment uniformity,” and the response is "structured in language that implies that the State has issued the purported COD," which HPOC maintains is simply not true.

Filed with HPOC’s sur-reply was an Affidavit of Support from Donald Vitaliano, professor emeritus at RPI, who taught public finance, urban economics, and managerial economics—subject areas that relate to the structure and economic theory of property tax and to the quantitative analysis of data. Vitaliano’s affidavit states that: “In the ‘Reply Affidavit’ submitted by Respondent-assessor Garth Slocum, . . . Mr. Slocum claims that a ‘Sales Analysis Report’ shows that his ‘desk audit’ assessment project meets State standards for assessment equity. In particular, he claims to have met the coefficient of dispersion (COD) equity test. A careful examination of his report suggests nothing of the kind.”

Vitaliano points out that “Mr. Slocum’s ‘Sales Analysis Report’ is not a report generated by the New York State Office of Real Property Tax Services (ORPTS). . . . There is no indication from any public record of the New York State Office of Real Property Services that the City of Hudson has conducted a recognized reassessment in 2010, a project that would have resulted in a ‘Local Reassessment Project Review and Analysis’ being performed and published by ORPTS.”

The affidavit claims that “Mr. Slocum has merely entered a self-selected set of recent sales into his desktop computer, using commercial RPS Version 4 software, to create his own test and purport ‘proof’ of uniformity. Mr. Slocum’s use of recent City of Hudson parcel sales compared to their assessments in the 2009 and 2010 roll tells us nothing about the COD or other equity measures of either roll. The reports simply show changes affecting individual properties. What the reports do suggest is that his 2010 ‘desk audit’ was most likely chasing sales, that is, reassessing properties as they sold.”

Vitaliano explains his own analysis of the "Sales Analysis Report” and concludes: “Reviewing the inadequacies of Mr. Slocum’s self-generated reports purporting to calculate a COD for the 2010 City of Hudson assessment roll, I find that his contention, that such reports ‘prove’ his 2010 ‘desk audit’ assessment project meets State standards for assessment equity, is without foundation.”

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