Opinion 98 - 4


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 The opinion may no longer represent those views if, among other things, there have been subsequent court cases or statutory amendments that bear on the issues discussed in the opinion.

COUNTIES -- Powers and Duties (delegation of duties in connection with correction of errors)

COUNTY AUDITOR -- Powers and Duties (delegation to of duties in connection with correction of errors)

COUNTY COMPTROLLER -- Powers and Duties (delegation to of duties in connection with correction of errors)

COUNTY TREASURER -- Powers and Duties (delegation to of duties in connection with correction of errors)

REAL PROPERTY TAXES AND ASSESSMENTS -- Correction of Errors (delegation of duties in connection with)

REAL PROPERTY TAX LAW, §554; COUNTY LAW, §§369, 577, 600: If the office of county auditor or county comptroller has been established in a county, the duties of the tax levying body provided for in Real Property Tax Law, §554 in connection with correction of errors on tax rolls may be delegated to the county auditor or county comptroller, as the case may be, pursuant to subdivision 9 of section 554. If such offices have not been established, then those duties may be delegated to the county treasurer.

This is in reply to your letter asking which county officer is the official to whom the county tax levying body may delegate authority to perform duties in connection with correction of errors on tax rolls, as provided in Real Property Tax Law, §554(9). 

At the outset, we note that it is the policy of this Office to render advisory legal opinions involving issues arising under the State Constitution and State statutes having general applicability to municipalities in this State. Accordingly, for purposes of this opinion, we will discuss only State statutes. You may wish to contact the county attorney's office with respect to determining the applicability of any county charter provisions.

Subdivision 9 of section 554 of the Real Property Tax Law, added by chapter 515 of the Laws of 1997, relates to the correction of errors on tax rolls. Subdivision 9 authorizes a tax levying body to delegate, by resolution, to "an official who is empowered to authorize payment of bills without prior audit by such body or, in the event there is no official so empowered, to an official responsible for the payment of bills upon audit of the appropriate municipal corporation so designated by it", the authority to perform the duties of such tax levying body provided for in that section. The duties of the tax levying body under section 554 include: examining applications for correction of errors and reviewing the written report of the county director of real property tax services summarizing his or her investigation of and recommendations regarding the applications; rejecting or approving the application; making an order setting forth the corrected taxes and directing the officer having jurisdiction of the tax roll to correct such roll; transmitting the order and all applications which have been approved to such officer; mailing notices of approval or rejected applications to the applicants; and filing copies of all applications with the records of the tax levying body. The resolution is effective only during the calendar year in which it is adopted and must designate that the delegation is applicable only when the recommended correction is $2,500 or less, or such other sum not to exceed $2,500.

If the recommended correction does not exceed the amount specified in the resolution, the county director of real property tax services must transmit the written report of the investigation and recommendation, together with copies of the application, to the designated official. Upon receipt of the written report, the designated official must follow the procedure which the tax levying body would follow in making the correction. If the designated official denies the application, in whole or in part, he or she must transmit to the tax levying body for its review and disposition pursuant to section 554(5) the written report of the investigation and recommendation of the county director, together with the copies of the application and the reasons that the designated official denied the correction. If the recommendation of the county director is to deny the application or if the correction requested is an amount in excess of the amount authorized in the resolution, the county director must transmit the written report of the investigation and recommendation, together with the copies of the application, to the tax levying body. The designated official must, on or before the fifteenth day of each month, submit a report to the tax levying body listing corrections processed within the preceding month and indicating the name of each recipient, the location of the property and the amount of the correction.

As noted, section 554(9) allows delegation by the tax levying body to the official who is empowered to authorize payment of bills without the prior audit of the tax levying body. If there is no such official, the tax levying body may delegate to the official responsible for the payment of bills upon audit of the appropriate municipal corporation. For this purpose, the "tax levying body" in a county is the county board of supervisors (Real Property Tax Law, §§550[5], 900).

County Law, §369(2) provides that, "except as otherwise provided by law", every claim for the payment of money must be audited by the county board of supervisors. If the office of county comptroller is created pursuant to County Law, §575, the county comptroller would have the responsibility for the audit of "all claims, accounts and demands that are lawful county charges with the same effect as if audited and directed to be paid by the board of supervisors"
(County Law, §577[1][b]). Also, under County Law, §600, the board of supervisors may create the office of county auditor to "audit all claims, accounts and demands which are made county charges by law and which would otherwise be audited by the board of supervisors". The board of supervisors, by local law or resolution, may limit the auditing power of the county auditor to certain types or classes of claims, fix rules governing the presentation to and the audit by the auditor and other matters deemed proper. After claims are audited and approved by the board of supervisors, the county comptroller or county auditor, as the case may be, the payment of the claims is a responsibility of the county treasurer (see County Law, §§369[6][b], 577[3], 600[1]).

From the foregoing, it is apparent that if the office of the county comptroller or county auditor has been established in a county, the county comptroller or auditor would be the official "empowered to authorize the payment of bills without the prior audit" by the county board of supervisors for purposes of Real Property Tax Law, §554(9). Therefore, in those circumstances, the duties of the tax levying body as provided in section 554 may be delegated to the county auditor or county comptroller, as the case may be, in accordance with Real Property Tax Law, §554(9)(1). If the audit function is not performed by the county auditor or county comptroller, then the county treasurer is the official "responsible for the payment of claims upon audit", for purposes of section 554(9). In those instances, therefore, the duties of the tax levying body as provided in section 554 may be delegated to the county treasurer in accordance with section 554(9).

January 25, 1998
Jeffry A. Jackson, Director
County of Rensselaer Tax Bureau

1. In support of this conclusion, we note that the delegation provision of section 554(9) tracks the language of Real Property Tax Law, §556(8), relative to the delegation of responsibilities in connection with administrative tax refunds. Section 556(8) was added by chapter 383 of the Laws of 1984. The legislative history of this measure indicates that section 556(8) was intended to permit delegation to a county comptroller or county auditor (see Memoranda to Governor's Counsel, L 1984, ch 383, from the State Board of Equalization and Assessment, July 6, 1994, and from Member of the Assembly Robach, July 17, 1984).