ASSESSOR LEVINSON FORESEES PROBLEMS WITH NYS LEGISLATURE’S “STAR REBATE CHECK PROGRAM”
(Mineola, NY) While praising the State Legislature’s proposal to help ease the burden of school property taxes on qualifying homeowners, Harvey Levinson, Chairman of the Nassau County Board of Assessors and Director of Real Property Services, called on the Governor to amend the bill to improve the distribution formulas used to calculate the amount of the rebate and to provide relief in the form of an immediate STAR credit instead of a check.
“After examining the Basic STAR formula used throughout the State, I discovered that struggling Nassau homeowners and our neighbors in Suffolk County will, once again, be shortchanged by existing State Aid formulas while high wealth areas like Westchester County will be receiving 50% or more in property tax relief,” stated Assessor Levinson. “Clearly, the disparities that exist in the system have to be addressed so that over-taxed ‘house rich and cash poor homeowners’ on Long Island can receive their fair share of State Aid. Under the present bill, it was reported that Nassau County homeowners would receive an average Basic STAR rebate check of $304, while the Westchester rebate would be approximately $528.”
While tax refunds given in the form of a check may be a popular way to distribute the rebate, Assessor Levinson sees a number of potential problems. In the event of a sale or change of name on a deed, many rebate checks would be misdirected to the former owner of a property even though a new owner will be paying the school taxes on the property. Given the backlog of recorded deeds in the County Clerk’s office and the large number of recent sales, the amount of misdirected checks would be significant.
Assessor Levinson indicated that a STAR credit would not only save the State $2.5 to 3 million dollars in postage and processing of over 3 million checks, but would guarantee that homeowners with outstanding mortgages would see the credit directly applied to their monthly mortgage payment and that the money would be used for its intended purpose – providing school property tax relief.
“As the law is written, homeowners who pay their school bill directly will have to pay the full amount of their school property tax bill up front and wait as late as October of 2007 to receive their rebate check,” concluded Assessor Levinson. “There is room for improving this worthwhile tax relief measure before it is signed into law and I respectfully call on the Governor to do so.”
Click HERE for Nassau County STAR Program and Projected Rebates
( .pdf file - Adobe Reader® required )
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Meanwhile, Legislators (particularly on the GOP side of the aisle) continue to tout their "rebate/STAR" initiative, and to blame huge property tax increases in Nassau County on the Assessor, Harvey Levinson. [From Newsday, "Instead of focusing on issues he clearly does not understand, he (Levinson) must stop raising property taxes by unfairly reassessing our homes each year," Skelos said. Levinson shot back: 'Annual reassessment was court-ordered. The senator should know that.'"]
Interesting that the court-ordered reassessment was put into effect under then Nassau County Assessor, Charles O'Shea (a Republican). Of course, he had no choice in the matter, either.
And let's assume, for argument sake, that it IS the Assessment. Okay. What do you, State Legislators, propose to do to remedy this pitiful situation (other than to whistle in the wind by going the "rebate/STAR" route)? When asked, the typical response is --- silence.
Harvey, they'll never get it. Hopefully, we, as taxpayers and voters, will!