Don’t try to re-submit STAR tax exemption forms just yet.
Assessors around the region were swamped Tuesday with calls and visits from residents trying to follow a law proposed in the state Legislature’s budget bills.
If passed, the law will require every homeowner to register for the STAR exemption again by April 2014. The goal is to weed out fraudulent applications — homeowners are only allowed to get the tax break on their primary residence, but some people are getting it on two or more homes.
However, the proposal has not yet been voted into law. And if it passes, it’s not clear how residents will re-register. Filing personal income taxes might be all that’s required, meaning almost everyone will have satisfied the law by April 15 without taking any special action.
Assessors said they have no idea how the state wants them to gather STAR exemption registrations, and they can’t collect any registrations yet.
“Give it a couple more days, weeks. Let us sort it out,” said Rotterdam town Assessor John Macejka Jr.
He’s hoping the state Department of Taxation and Finance will be able to do the bulk of the registration work.
“They have started doing that,” he said, noting that he got information from the department about double-dippers when they filed their taxes this year. “They might see if they can do some kind of mass, electronic checking of who should be getting the STAR and who shouldn’t.”
If everyone must re-register in person, it could cause significant problems.
“We don’t want to go through what we did 13 years ago, when they implemented [an amendment to] this. That was lines out the door,” Macejka said.
In the city of Amsterdam, Assessor Calvin Cline calculated that it would cost at least $7,200 to mail the applications to every STAR-eligible resident and collect the data.
“That’s an unfunded mandate. That’s another area in which I take exception — especially with a governor who pledged a year or two ago to reduce unfunded mandates,” Cline said.
Once all the data is turned in, his assistant would have to enter it all into a database — which he calculated would take nearly seven weeks if she spent six hours of every seven-hour day on the task.
“I think whatever cost-benefit analysis was considered by the state may not have taken into consideration that municipalities like mine have already purged duplicate STAR exemptions,” he said. “How many can be left?”
Schenectady also recently investigated and purged duplicate STAR exemptions. City Assessor Tina Dimitriadis told residents not to worry about re-registering for now.
“No law has been passed yet,” she said. “They do not have to do anything yet.”
She advised residents to wait until September.
Other assessors were preparing for a quicker turnaround — but not until the law is passed.
“As soon as we learn more, we will probably make some sort of announcement, once we know how people will be affected,” said Saratoga Springs Assistant Assessor Tony Popolizio.
In Glenville, the message was the same.
“It could change tomorrow,” said town Assessor Carol Corbett. “It’s not law yet.”