Assessors expect questions about STAR exemptions
CAPITAL REGION Several local assessors said Monday they are gearing up to handle questions from residents who believe New York is eliminating their Basic STAR exemption this year.
For the record, the state is keeping the basic STAR program, but it is eliminating the Middle Class STAR program.
The difference is that basic STAR reduces a homeowner’s assessment for calculating school taxes. The Middle Class STAR program sent a check to homeowners who have Basic STAR. The rebate amount was based on one’s income and age and averaged up to $450 for senior citizens.
State leaders eliminated the Middle Class STAR program, the state’s largest property tax rebate program, as part of a deal announced Monday on a $131.8 billion budget. The state removed the program to help close a $17.7 billion deficit. The state has to adopt a budget by Wednesday.
The Middle Class STAR program returned $1.2 billion to homeowners in 2008 and almost $3 billion since enacted in 2006.
Niskayuna Assessor Amy Houlihan said her office received a small number of phone calls Monday from people asking about their exemption, but not the number she thought she would receive.
“I saw it on the news and thought to myself, ‘We will be inundated with phones calls.’ But so far, we have had 15 phone calls,” she said. Houlihan said the Basic STAR exemption will be in place when she files the town’s 2009 assessment roll.
Glenville Administrator Tony Germano said town staff discussed the Middle Class STAR program’s elimination at a staff meeting Monday. “We haven’t gotten any phone calls on it because it may still be fresh. But we want to be out in front of it,” he said.
All homeowners who live in their residences are eligible for Basic STAR. To get the exemption, applicants must go to the local assessor’s office and fill out an application. This need be done only once. There is no age or income limitation to receive the exemption. The exemption reduces the home’s assessed value, which lowers the amount to be paid in school taxes.
The Middle Class STAR program was available to homeowners with Basic STAR and with incomes of less than $250,000.
Barbara Bradley of the New York State School Boards Association said the elimination of the program will hurt taxpayers and school districts. “We never liked it to begin with. This is money the district should have gotten directly and passed on the savings to taxpayers,” she said. “Now taxpayers are not going to get rebate checks and districts will still look at ways to reduce costs and put together budgets.”