As part of its 2016-17 budget, New York state turned the School Tax Relief Program (best known as the STAR exemption) into a tax credit. According to Lysander and Van Buren Town Assessor Theresa Golden, the state isn’t done tinkering with STAR yet.
Golden presented on updates to the STAR program at the Van Buren Town Board’s May 15 meeting.
Starting in 2019, the Income Verification Program (IVP) will be mandatory for those seeking the Enhanced STAR credit. Golden said there are no further details available at this time.
“The state will verify income for all renewals. We have no details at this point. Updates will continue as they iron out what we’re supposed to do,” she said.
Councilor Darcie Lesniak expressed her frustration that the state was taking over the IVP process.
“It frosts me,” Lesniak said. “The state hasn’t been able to really figure out the STAR exemptions now that they’ve taken it over. There’s people who are still having to pay their school taxes up front, wait several months — if not six months to a year — for their check. Now to see that they’ve taken over another aspect that was handled efficiently at the local level is just one of those things that is insane to me.”
Starting with the 2016 assessment roll, STAR was “grandfathered” in for homeowners who already had an exemption in place. Now, new homeowners must register with the NYS Department of Tax and Finance online instead of with the local assessor’s office. Instead of receiving the exemption off the school tax bill immediately, homeowners must pay the entire tax bill up front and wait for reimbursement from the DTF.
Golden said the town mailed preliminary change of assessment notices to 2,375 property owners in March, and she has had 78 informal meetings. She estimated 20 to 25 percent of those meetings resulted in a change of assessment.
After filing the tentative 2018 assessment roll May 1, Golden sent out 169 more notices. Most of these, she said, came about because of utilities, special franchises and construction projects such as garages, decks and pools.
Golden said assessments in Van Buren have risen an average of 5 percent the past two years.
“I know it’s not comforting when your assessment goes up, but it actually speaks to the property values in our town are improving,” Lesniak said. “So, overall, it’s actually a good thing.”
In addition to hearing Golden’s updates on the assessment front, the Van Buren Town Board also handled the following issues May 15:
• Deputy town clerk: The board approved the appointment of AnneMarie Doyle as deputy town clerk for September and January at an hourly rate of $14.59. “This will prevent anybody from being in the office during tax collection time by themselves,” Town Clerk Lynn Precourt said.
• Professional safety services: The town will hire Empire Safety and Consulting for $10,400 annually. Supervisor Claude Sykes said the consultant will help the town with safety training, correcting Public Employee Safety and Health (PESH) violations and assisting with annual safety audits.
• Discrimination and harassment policy: The board approved a new discrimination and harassment policy for the town employee handbook. Sykes said the new policy was drafted by the town’s liability carrier and tweaked by the town and its attorney, Kevin Gilligan, over a period of about three months.
“Now I see that New York state is requiring that all these be updated in all municipalities, so as Kevin said, we’re on the cutting edge,” Sykes said.
Ashley M. Casey is a reporter for The Baldwinsville Messenger and The Eagle Star-Review. She graduated from Le Moyne College in 2012 and previously worked for the Scotsman Press.