Opinion 97 - 1


This opinion represents the views of the Office of the State Comptroller at the time it was rendered. The opinion may no longer represent those views if, among other things, there have been subsequent court cases or statutory amendments that bear on the issues discussed in the opinion.

PUBLIC HOUSING AUTHORITIES -- Powers and Duties (participation in county workers' compensation self-insurance plan)

WORKERS' COMPENSATION -- County Self-Insurance Plan (participation in by village housing authority)

WORKERS' COMPENSATION LAW, §§62, 66, 71: A village housing authority is eligible to participate in a workers' compensation plan of the county in which it is located, unless excluded by the county's rules and regulations. To the extent costs are apportioned to plan participants on the basis of full valuation of taxable real property, the authority's full valuation will be the same as that of the village. Any experience component should be calculated based on past liability in accordance with the local law providing for the experience rating, or the county's rules and regulations.

You ask whether a village housing authority may become a participant in a county workers' compensation self-insurance plan and, if so, on what basis the housing authority would share in the costs of the plan.

Pursuant to Workers' Compensation Law, article 5 (§60 et seq.), a county may, by local law, establish a plan of workers' compensation self-insurance. Section 62 of that law provides that:

Each plan shall have at least two municipal corporations as participants. The county shall be one of the participants in a plan. Any . . . other public corporation may by resolution of its governing body elect to become a participant in a plan established in the county, or, in the case of a public corporation . . . located in more than one county, in a plan established in one of such counties; provided, however, that the rules and regulations adopted pursuant to section sixty-five of this chapter may exclude from participation in a plan any type of public corporation . . . other than the county and cities, towns and villages (emphasis added).

Thus, unless excluded by rules and regulations, any "public corporation" located within a county which has established a plan is eligible to participate in the plan (see 1979 Opns St Comp No. 79-732, unreported).

A "public corporation" for this purpose includes: (a) municipal corporations (i.e., town, village, county, city or school district); (b) district corporations; and (c) those public benefit corporations which operate in a territory coterminous with the county or a tax district or districts within the county (Workers' Compensation Law, §60[1]; General Construction Law, §66[1]). A public benefit corporation is a "corporation organized to construct or operate a public improvement wholly or partly within the state, the profits from which inure to the benefit of this or other states, or to the people thereof" (General Construction Law, §66[4]).

Municipal housing authorities have been held to constitute public benefit corporations (see Valente v NYCHA, 201 Misc 24, 109 NYS2d 883; Public Housing Law, §§2, 3[2]; General Construction Law, §§65[a], 66[4]; 1988 Opns St Comp No. 88-64, p 126). The territorial jurisdiction of a village housing authority is coterminous with the territorial limits of the village (Public Housing Law, §31). Therefore, since a village housing authority operates in a territory coterminous with a tax district within the county, it is eligible to participate in the workers' compensation insurance plan of a county in which the authority is located unless excluded by rules and regulations.

With respect to the sharing of costs by the housing authority, Workers' Compensation Law, §66(1) provides generally that the costs of the plan must be apportioned to each participant in the proportion that the full valuation of the participants' taxable real property bears to the aggregate full valuation of all participants. The rules and regulations of the county plan may provide that apportionments to a class of participants will be based on a percentage of full valuation. In addition, a county may provide by local law for the operation of the plan on an experience rating basis, charging participants, partially or totally, on the basis of past liability (Workers' Compensation Law, §71[1]).

Subdivision 2 of section 66 provides that the full valuation of a public benefit corporation for purpose of apportionment "shall be the same as the full valuation of taxable real property of the tax district or districts within which it operates". Thus, to the extent costs are apportioned to participants based on the full valuation of taxable real property, the full valuation of a village housing authority will be the same as that of the village. Any experience component should be calculated based on past liability in accordance with the county's local law providing for experience rating, or its rules and regulations.

Accordingly, a village housing authority is eligible to participate in a workers' compensation plan of the county in which it is located, unless excluded by the county's rules and regulations. To the extent costs are apportioned to plan participants on the basis of full valuation of taxable real property, the authority's full valuation will be the same as that of the village. Any experience component should be calculated based on past liability in accordance with the local law providing for the experience rating, or the county's rules and regulations.

January 27, 1997
James F. Collins, Esq., County Attorney
County of Herkimer