Assemblywoman Gunther Announces Passage of Legislation to Fix Problems with STAR

March 1, 2017
Albany, NY - Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther (D,I,WF- Forestburgh) co-sponsored and helped pass legislation fixing the state’s School Tax Relief (STAR) program to make sure every eligible homeowner gets tax relief in a fair and timely manner (A.5969).

“Last year’s STAR changes complicated the program, and rebate delays burdened the people it was created to help,” said Gunther. “That’s why I fought for this legislation so strongly. Tax relief is supposed to make our lives easier, not more difficult.”

In the past, all eligible homeowners received a simple, yearly reduction in their school tax bill. But the new system, implemented last year, requires anyone buying a new home to pay the full school tax bill, regardless of their income or circumstances. Then, the individual must register for a rebate check from the state and wait for it to arrive, which often presents a hardship. Technically, the amount of the benefit is the same, but the system is much less convenient and can be especially taxing for people with lower or fixed incomes.

To make matters worse, in the new system’s first year, many homeowners reported receiving their checks much later than they were supposed to or even receiving less than they were owed. The situation unfairly left many hardworking families with budgets in a bind.

The Assembly’s legislation reverses the new rebate system and transitions the program back to the way it was, providing all homeowners with their deserved tax relief upfront, in the form of a smaller school tax bill. Administration of the program is also returned to the hands of local assessors, rather than the State Department of Taxation and Finance. It also requires the state to help localities notify residents of these changes so that homeowners know how to receive their exemptions.

“I’ve heard from people all over Sullivan and Orange counties who were worried about when they would receive their STAR checks,” Gunther said. “This move to return the STAR program to upfront savings will take that anxiety out of the equation.”

The bill has passed the Assembly and now awaits action by the Senate.