MAYVILLE - Chautauqua County Executive Gregory J. Edwards is working with state officials to try and reverse a decrease in School Tax Relief, or STAR, exemptions.
According to Edwards, homeowners may soon receive an unpleasant surprise when their school property tax bills arrive and are more than they expected. The increase is due to a reduction in STAR exemptions, which comes on top of the loss of their STAR property tax rebate checks.
For the second consecutive year, Edwards said state officials reduced the rate of both Basic and Enhanced School Tax Relief exemptions, meaning residents may pay a little more in taxes than they would otherwise. STAR exemptions were reduced by 11 percent this year and 10 percent last year, according to Edwards.
Explaining, Edwards said officials from the state Office of Real Property Services attributed the reduction to state legislators seeking ways to reduce New York's estimated $17.7 billion budget deficit. Legislators changed the law last year to help reduce the amount of money the state had to reimburse school districts through the STAR program.
"This is going to deal a tremendous blow to our area seniors," Edwards said. "I fight every day for services for Chautauqua County's seniors, and this latest news will make life even harder for them."
The basic STAR exemption was created in 1998 as a way to reduce the school tax burden on residents. The program allowed homeowners at least 65 years old to reduce the taxable portion of their assessment, thereby allowing them to realize substantial savings on their school taxes.
"I am working side by side with state Senator Catharine Young to reverse this disturbing trend," Edwards said. "What New York state is doing to our seniors is the exact opposite of what my administration has delivered for our seniors."
Having voted against the "disastrous" state budget, as she described it, Young also offered an amendment to restore the STAR rebate checks - which is why she has decided to spearhead a petition drive. Petitions will allow taxpayers an opportunity to tell Albany that the STAR rebate checks are important to their families.
"By making it more affordable to live and work here, we can turn the state's economy around and bring jobs an opportunity back to upstate," Sen. Young said.
"Last year at this time, STAR rebate checks were already beginning to arrive in mailboxes and homeowners and seniors were able to use the money to help pay their property taxes or other bills," Sen. Young continued. "What was once needed property tax relief has now been taken away by the governor and New York City legislative leaders."
For more information or to sign Young's petition, visit www.IWantMySTARCheck.com or call the senator's toll-free phone number, 1-800-707-0058.