The Business Council supports the establishment of an energy-related public utility mass real property pilot program for Westchester County. Under the pilot program, the Department of Tax and Finance (T&F) will uniformly assess utility-owned real property located on privately owned land in Westchester that is used in the transmission and distribution of electricity and gas. This pilot program will benefit utility customers because it will lead to electric and gas utility administrative savings, such as the avoidance of litigation over assessments.
Chapter 475 of the laws of 2013 directed T&F to establish central assessment process for telecommunications “mass” property (i.e., lines and wires) located in or on private property. The central assessment process first took effect for the 2015 assessment rolls. The current law has proven successful in ensuring uniformity and predictability to utility property assessments, as well as a reduction in litigation regarding utility property assessments. The proposed legislation is substantially similar to Chapter 475 of the laws of 2013.
Currently, electric and gas utility owned property located in the public right of way, known as special franchise property, is assessed by the State, while utility property located on private property is assessed by the local assessor. T&F already provides assessments for several hundred assessing units for utility property that are located on public rights of way. In many other states, the responsibility of assessing all utility property is conducted by the state because of the complexities of evaluating transmission and distribution property.
For these reasons, The Business Council supports this legislation.