Our property taxes are much too high. In fact, we have some of the highest property tax rates in the nation. That is why I have consistently voted against increasing Erie County property tax rates. I am proud of the fact that the three county budgets I have voted on have not increased county property taxes. Unfortunately, as a county legislator, I have no control over school taxes which make up a much larger proportion of our property taxes. That is why the state’s School Tax Relief (STAR) program is so important.
For several years, many of us have enjoyed a reduction of hundreds of dollars in our school taxes due to the state’s STAR Program. Now, because of concerns about possible fraud involving people claiming the exemption on multiple properties, everyone receiving the Basic STAR exemption must re-register by the end of the year to remain eligible for the program. The state is sending out letters to current Basic STAR program recipients detailing the steps they must take. The letters include a STAR code they will need. Unfortunately, the letters may be mistaken for junk mail, as they are addressed to “property owners” and contain a bulk stamp. If you get one of these letters, do not throw it out. You will need it to keep your STAR tax break by re-registering on the web or via phone. The actual process takes only a few minutes. Please note that this does not apply to anyone receiving the Enhanced STAR exemption. Enhanced STAR recipients should continue to apply annually or participate in the state’s income verification program.
People currently receiving the Basic Star benefit should also be aware that they may be eligible for the Enhanced STAR benefit once one of the homeowners reaches the age of 65. This is important because the Enhanced benefit is a bit more than double the Basic one. While the income limit for the Basic program is $500,000, however, the Enhanced limit is currently $81,900. This would include the income of all owners of the property, as well as that of their spouses if the spouses live in the home. The upgrade from Basic to Enhanced is not automatic. If someone who turns 65 fails to apply for the Enhanced STAR benefit, they will continue to receive the Basic one. More information can be obtained by visiting the NY Department of Taxation and Finance’s website at www.tax.ny.gov or calling them at (518) 591-5233.
If you have thoughts you would like to share, I would love to hear from you. I can be contacted by phone at 858-8672 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.