Note: On October 8, 2020, Lloyd Tasch, IAO was installed as NYSAA’s president. His acceptance speech is below.
Good afternoon everyone,
It is with great honor and gratitude that I stand before you as the 76th incoming president of the New York State Assessors Association. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to lead this great organization, and I pray that Scott and I will be the only presidents to be forever nicknamed the “Pandemic Presidents.”
My first order of business is to acknowledge the extraordinary job Scott Shedler did as president. I first met Scott in grade school, but our crowds did not mix as he was a “jock” and I was a “nerd.” He was quite the sports star in high school, and if you had told me back then that both of us would become assessors and that one day we would be on the same team, Team NYSAA, that would have been unimaginable. But Scott learned through sports to be a great teammate and how to lead his team to victory. That is what Scott has done since he joined Team NYSAA and what he excelled at as president. Scott led us through a potential financial and educational crisis. Of course, he did not do that alone. Warren, Tracy, Laverne, and the Executive Board have also played important roles. The IAO Trustees aided him in his vision of success, allowing it to thrive during these difficult times. We work as a team, and that is why we can all be proud of where this organization is today.
I would like to thank my wife Susan and my daughter Frances for allowing me to spend the time necessary to do my job as an executive board member. I would like to thank my sister Beth and my nephew Jesse for being here. I want to thank my City of White Plains staff: Richard, Gloria, Kathy, and Elisa. Words really can’t express how thankful I am for your tremendous work ethic, knowledge, and friendship.
I would like to thank everyone who planned and organized this event at a time when such events are sometimes impossible to have. A special thank you to Scott Shedler, who was able to secure a baseball stadium where I have enjoyed many great baseball games, to allow for safe social distancing. Thank you again to Warren, Tracy, and the Annual Conference Committee who have done a wonderful job with this event. Many thanks must go to the Westchester Assessors Association for all their input into this event, especially the gift bags, pretzels, and ice cream and their endless support of me through the years. I also would like to thank all of the sponsors who contributed to this event.
I also would like to thank every past president and Executive Board member who I have worked with because I have learned so much from each and every one of them. I need to acknowledge three particular individuals who are the most responsible for me being here this afternoon. Tim Sheares, who worked in the office next to me in the City of New York and who planted the initial seed to run for the Executive Board. Paul Smith, who finally convinced me to run for the Executive Board, and Edye McCarthy, who allowed me for the first time to experience Cornell and the Annual Assessors’ Conference where I saw and experienced firsthand the importance of the Association’s education programs and learning from my fellow assessors. But most importantly l have to thank her for leaving the City of White Plains to become the assessor of the Town of Greenburgh, allowing me the opportunity to become the assessor, and the rest is, as they say, history.
Like so many assessors in this organization I did not grow up wanting to be an assessor or even know what an assessor did. It was not until after I graduated from college and experienced firsthand the difficulty of settling on a job that my aunt, Gail Hardoon, who was an assessor for the City of New York, aided me in getting an assistant assessor job with their Income and Expense Unit. It was there that I developed a love of being an assessor. It was all numbers, which I had loved working with all my life. While working for the City of New York I came to know several outstanding individuals who helped me to perfect my craft, becoming the assessor I am today. David Moog, who would become the chief assessor for Nassau County; David Jackson, who would become the Westchester County Tax Commission executive director and assessor for the City of Yonkers; Mark Russel, who was assessor in charge of Staten Island and would become the assessor for the City of Yonkers; and as I previously mentioned, Tim Sheares, who would eventually become the New York City Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Finance’s Property Division. I was surrounded by some of the best assessors in the State of New York and I learned from all of them.
During my years on the Executive Board I have been privileged to help change the Association’s view of the Department of Taxation and Finance from an adversarial one to one of cooperation in achieving our mutual goals. I look forward to continuing to work with them to make sure we can come up with any needed legal or procedural changes to meet whatever our Association’s members will be confronting this upcoming year, including our need to continue to work together to ensure that the STAR exemption as well as all other exemptions continue to be as taxpayer friendly as possible.
I was very lucky this year because both of my jurisdictions, the City of White Plains and the Village of Pleasantville, produced their assessment rolls and held grievance night before we were officially in a pandemic. So many assessors were forced to adapt, but all met the challenge with flying colors. I saw this personally in my role as a Board of Assessment review member for the Town of Ramapo where assessor Scott Shedler adapted to the pandemic by holding grievance night and BAR deliberation meetings in the largest room that is in the Town of Ramapo municipal building. On grievance night taxpayers called in and it went extremely smoothly. Assessors all across the state met the challenges of the pandemic producing our assessment rolls, holding grievance nights, and negotiating SCARs, because every one of our municipalities heavily depend on us to do our job well. Assessors met the numerous challenges, and I am confident that we will continue to do so.
I recently read a quote by Ruth Bader Ginsberg: “So often in life, things that you regard as an impediment turn out to be great, good fortune.” For NYSAA the pandemic provided some good fortune because it forced the Association to embrace the computer age fully. We turned to online education, which the majority of members have embraced. The Association will never abandon in-person education, but we acknowledge that there will need to be a balance created as we move forward into the new normal.
The Association will make every effort to make sure that state education funding will not be either cut or eliminated. The state cannot attempt to reduce the already reduced 12 hours of required continuing education. Looking up the word professional in the dictionary it states that professional people have jobs that require advanced education or training. Continuing education is one of the most important things that an assessor should be pursuing. Staying up to date with the continually changing real property tax laws, judicial decisions, and current methodologies for allowing us to do our jobs with the appropriate knowledge is essential to perform our jobs as assessors.
Budgets will be very tight this year for almost all assessing jurisdictions. I recently read a quote by the great football coach Vince Lombardi that seems to fit: “The measure of who we are is what we do with what we have.” Most assessors are going to have to function with less money and possibly less staff. One jurisdiction actually wanted to eliminate the assessor position, but the New York State Assessors Association stepped in to let the current assessor know their rights. Sadly, some municipalities underappreciate the important roles assessors play even though property tax bills are based on our final assessment roll, which provides the majority of the tax revenue necessary for the government to function.
Before I end this speech, I would like to share with you one of my top pet peeves with how assessing is judged in New York State. Assessing in the state of New York is conducted by doing mass appraisal. The IAAO defines mass appraisal as the process of valuing a group of properties as of a given date and using common data, standardized methods, and statistical testing. The most common statistical test to determine the effectiveness of the valuation is determining the COD or Coefficient of Dispersion. The IAAO defines a successful COD of between 5.0 – 15.00 as having good values. But unlike the state of New Jersey, who only allows taxpayers to grieve if they are at least 15% overassessed, in New York anyone can grieve their assessment. This wastes time and resources adjudicating baseless claims.
My stadium surroundings have inspired me to close with a quote from one of my favorite autobiographical movies, Pride of the Yankees, about one of the greatest Yankees to ever play for them, Lou Gehrig, and that is “Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.”
Thank you for joining us today and God Bless America. Stay safe everybody.