A delegation of area state Assembly representatives is calling on Governor Cuomo to stop making changes to the popular STAR and Enhanced STAR programs that provide tax reductions for property owners.
During a gathering last week in Tarrytown with the Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge in the backdrop, Assemblywoman Sandra Galef (D/Ossining) and several of her colleagues said the programs have been modified every year for the last five budget cycles, which has created “unnecessary confusion” for constituents.
“We want to ensure the STAR program is maintained,” Galef said. “We cannot continue to negotiate away this vital tax benefit year after year in the budget. I have seen a steady increase in constituent outreach over the last few years from STAR and Enhanced STAR recipients who are simply unable to wrap their heads around the changes to their benefit.”
In last year’s budget, a zero percent cap was implemented, limiting annual growth in the programs. One major change was the STAR exemption was converted to a credit for many recipients, so they now receive a tax credit in the mail rather than having the amount automatically deducted from their school taxes.
In addition, Enhanced STAR, which offers additional support to senior citizens, now requires recipients to enroll in an income verification program in order for them to receive a rebate.
“It’s so complicated now,” said Assemblywoman Amy Paulin (D/Scarsdale). “We understand the state is in a predicament this year, but it should not be at the expense of our property taxpayers. In Westchester, it’s a middle-class program. It’s a program our school districts and taxpayers rely on.”
Assemblyman Tom Abinanti (D/Tarrytown) said the STAR programs, which have been in place since 1990 and cost $2.1 billion, are vital to maintain since the federal government has severely limited property tax deductions.
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, and don’t break it,” Abinanti remarked. “Every year there is less going into STAR. The governor has tried to reduce usage of STAR by making it confusing. It’s very important for the suburbs that this program remain intact.”