It is often said, "Things aren't always what they seem." The same can be said of this election year's gimmick of a STAR rebate check to be given to property owners to offset 2006-07 school taxes.
When I first learned that the Senate was working on providing homeowners with additional STAR money, I was delighted. However, as the plan evolved I discovered that the final version of the STAR Property Tax Rebate Check program had a number of significant flaws that should have been addressed.
Not only will the STAR Rebate Check cost $3-5 million in postage to mail 3.4 million checks, thousands of former property owners who have relocated to other states earlier this year will receive rebate checks even though they are not responsible for paying school property taxes in 2006-07.
In addition, Westchester homeowners will be given higher tax rebates averaging $390 for Basic STAR and $650 for Enhanced STAR - compared to a Basic and Enhanced STAR tax rebate of only $167 and $278 to Garden City homeowners: a fact ignored in a recent Senate pre-election update.
Most galling is the fact that Westchester's Briarcliff Manor and Hasting on Hudson will receive Enhanced STAR Rebate Checks totaling $928 and $941 respectively, compared to Garden City's paltry $278!
Last, the rebates are a taxable event for those who itemize deductions.
Had the Senate leadership followed my proposal, the rebates could have been given homeowners by simply increasing the amount of their annual STAR credit. The effect would have been immediate and not cost taxpayers the millions of dollars in postage. The tax relief would also be given to hardworking taxpayers who are paying this year's school tax bill - not to those sunning themselves on the beaches of Florida.
The bottom line is that our state lawmakers decided to take the costly approach to mail the rebates so that each legislator could get credit for returning money back to taxpayers in an election year.
It is time that our state delegation fix the STAR formulas that have shortchanged Nassau homeowners for nearly a decade. Only then will we receive the property tax relief we deserve.
Harvey B. Levinson
Chairman, Board of Assessors