Assemblywoman Sandy Galef, chair of the NYS Assembly Real Property Taxation Committee, reports that an executive proposal to change the Enhanced STAR program from an exemption to a credit for new property taxpayers with incomes of $90,550 or less was rejected in the final 2021-2022 budget.
The School Tax Relief (STAR) Program offers a tax reduction for property owners by lowering the amount they owe in school taxes. It is one of the most popular tax benefits in New York State. However, despite its popularity, the Governor has attempted year after year during budget negotiations to alter the rules and regulations surrounding the program. Assemblywoman Galef and the Westchester/Rockland Assembly delegation once again were successful in taking a stand against his proposed changes that would have had a significant financial impact on the seniors in those counties and in the State of New York as a whole.
The executive proposal would have made it so that those property owners who are 65 years of age or older with incomes of $90,550 or less would get a check in the mail from the tax and finance department rather than a deduction on their school property taxes. According to Assemblywoman Galef, the concern with that proposal is that seniors with more limited incomes could have to pay their full school taxes before they may receive a check from the State.
Assemblywoman Galef said, “The Westchester/Rockland delegation has been consistent on this issue every year when the Governor tinkers with the STAR program in the executive budget proposal. We have seen how challenging it can be for seniors to navigate the State’s various websites and forms over the past few months with the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines. This is all the more incentive for me to continue to oppose any threats to this highly popular tax benefit. We need to make sure that accessing these benefits gets easier and fairer over time, not the other way around.”
Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski said, “Enhanced STAR helps keep seniors on a fixed income in their homes. The current process is vital and simple: eligible seniors get significant relief off their property tax bills. Changing this program to a check is confusing and disjointed and we worked hard to reject it. Thanks to Chair Galef and Speaker Heastie for their leadership on this important affordability issue for our seniors."
Assemblyman Tom Abinanti said, “I was pleased to join Assemblywoman Galef in her successful effort to preserve the Enhanced Star tax relief program which is so important to seniors particularly in Westchester. Seniors can breathe a little easier now that the governor's proposed changes are rejected.”
Assemblywoman Amy Paulin said, “We need to make it easier for seniors to receive the Enhanced STAR exemption, not harder. Receiving a check in the mail from the state rather than a deduction on school property taxes would have been burdensome to seniors who would potentially receive the check after their school taxes are due. I’m proud to have successfully rallied against this change along with my Assembly colleagues. Protecting this exemption for seniors is an important step in continuing our efforts to ensure that seniors can remain in their homes and neighborhoods.”
Assemblyman Chris Burdick said, “The enhanced STAR tax relief program is critical for seniors in Westchester, Rockland and throughout New York State. My thanks to Assemblywoman Sandy Galef for her leadership in removing from the budget the Governor's proposal to change the program, which would harm our seniors with the most limited means.”