BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Homeowners across New York claim a state tax relief program is causing them more aggravation than actual relief. A new law that provides direct rebate checks for certain homeowners, instead of a tax exemption seems to be coming up short.
Lawmakers created the STAR program in 1997 to hold down school taxes–when a school district holds the line on property taxes, the state provides a subsidy to make up the difference. The relief for a homeowner comes in the form of a tax abatement.
But for new homeowners this year, the state decided to replace the upfront exemption with a rebate check, which seems to be causing some hardships.
“So many senior citizens depend upon this money,” said Assemblyman Michael Kearns who has been fielding calls from all over the state–homeowners complaining they are not getting the right amounts on their STAR rebate checks, or they haven’t received them at all, due to the changes in the School Tax Relief program, known as STAR.
“There was a change in the state law,” Kearns explained, “if people sold their home, moved into a new home, and then they would have to re-apply again, they would get a reimbursement instead of getting that upfront savings.”
Only homeowners who bought their homes after March 1, 2015 qualify for the rebate checks, and Kearns said, the new procedure seems to be affecting seniors more because if they are 65 years or older they can get an Enhanced STAR rebate which is about double the rebate for the Basic STAR exemption.
State lawmakers were less than pleased with the STAR changes, and Kearns said there is a strong movement to go back to the way the state has been conducting the STAR program for nearly 20 years.
“To me it doesn’t make any sense,” said the Buffalo Assemblyman, “I would like to go back to the old way and I am considering working with the chairman to file new legislation, dealing with this matter, so we can go back to the old way.”
Kearns said officials at the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance have assured him the corrected checks should be “in the mail” by the end of the week.