BUFFALO, N.Y. — Not everyone is pleased with changes being made by the State of New York to the School Tax Relief, or STAR program, which were quietly sewn into the state budget passed by lawmakers in the early morning hours of April 1.
The change won't impact who is eligible for the program, but rather the way they may receive their STAR benefit.
Moreover, the change means a considerable number of Western New Yorkers (those who bought their homes prior to August 1, 2015, and who earn less than $250,000) will have a choice to make.
They can - as they always have - get their STAR savings as a reduction on their tax bill-- or get a rebate check instead.
Evans town assessor Jeneen Hill says she's already getting calls about this, from homeowners who are mostly confused.
Hill reminds homeowners that their town assessor can help explain the changes, but can only do so much because the choice is really the homeowners to make after consideration of what would be best for their individual needs.
It is a two-step process, according to Hill, for a homeowner to change the way they get their STAR.
She says a town assessor can explain it, but can only do so much, to help because it's a choice you have to make if you want to change the way you receive your star rebate.
“First you have to renounce your STAR exemption and fill out an application to renounce it and give it to your assessor. Your assessor then will take the exemption off. And then you would have to go to contact New York State, either by calling them or by going to their web site and file to receive the credit check.”
Hill also serves on the executive board of the New York State Assessors Association, which in strong language, denounced the change as something which “has led to confusion among the taxpayers and unnecessary chaos in the assessment community."
If you opt for the rebate check, be aware that your bank may increase your mortgage's monthly escrow payment, in order to cover your school taxes which will no longer reflect your STAR exemption.
To try and convince folks to take the rebate checks, the state will boost your star rebate by two percent if you do so.
However, as the average STAR rebate is $800 that would amount to $16.