STAR Exemption Dilemma

NORTH TONAWANDA, NY - We all have to do it...and, for most of us, re-registering our "primary" residence for a STAR tax exemptionshould be a relatively simple process.

However, due to some rather unique circumstances, it has become a frustrating process for one Niagara County man, for whom there are no easy answers.

Roy Gregory lives in a home on Witmer Road, which is literally bisected by the border between the town of Wheatfield and the city of North Tonawanda.

"It's kind of like being in one of those places where you can stand in four states at once,…only you can stand in my living room and be in two towns," he laughed.

For the 21 years he has lived here, he's paid a portion of his taxes to Wheatfield, and the other to North Tonawanda.

To the best of his recollection, he has always been granted a STAR exemption, from each municipality, proportionate to the halves of his home in both.

Like all of us, he recently had to re-apply for STAR.

Wheatfield granted a STAR exemption for the part of his home that is within its bounds, but North Tonawanda denied it.

"I can't get it through their heads that it's only one house just happens to be in two towns. You get a STAR exemption on one house, so I should get it on my one house…all of it. If I'm paying taxes to both entities I should get a rebate," said Gregory.

Bottom line, said Gregory, is that his neighbors on either side (whose homes are entirely within one municipality or the other) are getting the full benefit of whatever STAR exemption they may be entitled to, while he is not.

Two On Your Side went to North Tonawanda City Hall, where we were told the Assessor was on vacation. However, an assistant in the office said they are still working with the City Attorney to see if anything can legally be done to assist Gregory, while reminding us that STAR is a state program.

Gregory also took it upon himself to attend a recent state sponsored STAR forum, but to no avail.

"I took this to the Lockport DMV where they had the 'STAR lady'…she just kinda said, 'man, I have no idea how to do this'. So I left there no better than I was when I got there."

Fortunately, three quarters of the taxes Gregory pays are to Wheatfield, which is granting the exemption.

Moreover, truth be told, he probably would not save that much money if North Tonawanda acquiesced.

Nevertheless, to him, that is not the point.

"That's that's my money, I worked for it. Even if it was $20 it's the principle…that's mine, you know?

Gregory's situation is obviously a rare one.

A spokesperson for the NY State Department of Taxation said he was not legally trained in the law, and therefore could not offer any clarification right away. But he promised to bring it to the attention of a qualified person, to take a look at the situation when someone was available.

NY State Senator George Maziarz also took down information when contacted by WGRZ-TV, and promised to look into the situation as well.

Click on the video player to watch our story from 2 on Your Side Reporter Dave McKinley and Photojournalist Ben Read.

Follow Dave on Twitter: @DaveMcKinley2


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