There is less than a month left to re-register for the Basic STAR property tax exemption, a move that can save homeowners hundreds of dollars, yet according to the most recent figures from the state, more than 20,000 eligible Capital Region homeowners have not done so.
Basic STAR exempts the first $30,000 of the full value of a home from school taxes. It is available on the primary residence of homeowners with incomes of less than $500,000.
The need for the re-registration stems from a tax department investigation that found thousands of taxpayers were receiving STAR exemptions on more than one property.
For more information
To register for the Basic STAR tax exemption, visit www.tax.ny.gov or call 457-2036.
The deadline to re-register is Dec. 31.
Over a quarter of eligible homeowners — about 1,700 — in Schoharie County have yet to re-register. That fact is very frustrating to Mark Los, assessor for the town of Conesville and chairman of the Board of Assessors for the town of Jefferson. Only 65 percent of Conesville’s eligible homeowners have re-registered for STAR, and in Jefferson, the news isn’t much better: Just 69 percent have re-registered there.
“I had them put a notice in the local newspaper two weeks ago. There are signs up in all the buildings in town. I’ve talked to probably five, six people a week, but for some reason, some people wait until the last minute,” he said. “I keep telling them not to. I keep saying, ‘What happens if the website crashes if it can’t handle the extra volume?’ ”
Los said he requested a list from the state of all eligible residents who still haven’t re-registered in Jefferson and Conesville but was told he would not be sent one until after people were disqualified from the program.
“After the last [assessors’] meeting we were just scratching our heads about what we could do, and we just couldn’t think of anything more after they told us we were not getting a list,” he said.
In Fulton County, there are more than 2,500 eligible homeowners who have yet to re-register, about 23 percent of the population. Peter Galarneau, director of real property tax service for the county, said he thinks part of the problem has to do with the look of the reminders the state has mailed out.
“The mailings that have come out from the state have been pretty generic-looking, and I think some people are just seeing these things and maybe making the assumption that they are junk mail and really not looking at it,” he speculated.
In Saratoga County, where 83 percent of the eligible population has re-registered, there are still over 8,300 people who have yet to do so. In an effort to spur stragglers to action, letters have been sent by the assessor’s office to all county residents, letting them know that if they need assistance they can come to the office and sign up there. Quite a few people have taken advantage of that offer, said Sharon Kellner-Byrnes, deputy commissioner of accounts.
Eighty percent of Schenectady County’s residents have re-registered, leaving close to 6,000 who still need to do so. Posters have been placed in all county buildings, libraries and other public spaces to remind people, and reminders are also being posted on the county’s website, Twitter and Facebook pages, according to county spokesman Joe McQueen.
“They definitely should re-register and make sure they receive the tax relief that they are entitled to because that’s money back in their pockets,” he said.
Amy Houlihan, town assessor for Niskayuna, said her goal is to get every eligible person to re-register.
“I really don’t want to skip anybody,” she said. “I’m going to bend over backwards if I know somebody’s entitled.”
Montgomery County still has more than 2,300 residents who need to re-register. Sandy Frasier, director of real property for the county, said she is stressing to residents that Dec. 31 is the cutoff date, not the taxable status date, which she said is used for most exemptions.
According to New York state’s website, in most municipalities, the taxable status date is March 1 of each year.
For those seeking assistance, the Department of Taxation and Finance is offering extended STAR Hotline hours through Dec. 31, from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays.