It is Back to the Future for popular STAR Program tax breaks


BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – It has been 20 years since former Governor George Pataki and state lawmakers rolled out the STAR Program of exemptions on school property taxes for homeowners, and it has become so popular politicians in Albany keep coming up with new ways to add to it.

But now, you could say, it got to be too much of a good thing. STAR started out as an exemption on a homeowner’s school tax bill: property owners got a break on their taxes, then the state made up the difference to school district in direct state aid.

Then they started adding rebates—getting your STAR credit in the form of a check, then another check for new homebuyers, and then it got tangled in payments to homeowners when their municipality kept tax increases under a cap–until New Yorkers started complaining about getting their checks late, or the amounts of the checks were wrong, or they didn’t get their checks at all.

The State Assembly voted Thursday to go back to the future, approving a measure that would return STAR to the original program.

Sen. Rich Funke, a Fairport Republican, expects the Senate to follow suit, “It is probably the number one complaint that we get in our office on a day-to-day basis–where are our STAR checks? What is going on?”

Funke blames Gov. Andrew Cuomo for the STAR fiasco, pushing the popular program too far, without giving the state Department of Taxation and Finance the tools to implement all the taxpayer goodies, “This was a program that worked very well. It was a problem not for anybody–other than the governor. So we think it is appropriate to get it back to the way it was.”

The STAR rebate programs also created a bottleneck for processing the checks by turning the entire application process over to the state Department of Taxation. The new measure returns that job to local town and city assessors—the way it was when STAR was not drawing as many complaints.

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