WPCNR QUILL & EYESHADE. By John F. Bailey. January 12, 2009: Town of Greenburgh Supervisor Paul Feiner issued a statement on the Town of Greenburgh website Saturday he had been advised that an 18% cut in the STAR exemption is presently incorporated in Governor David Patterson’s 2009-10 budget. The Governor’s proposed 18% STAR cut was first reported by WPCNR two weeks ago.
Feiner foresees dire school tax consequences if the STAR Exemptions were enacted: "The cut in STAR exemptions, if enacted by the NYS Legislature, will result in higher school property tax bills since your school tax bills will not be subsidized by STAR to the degree that they once were. Schools, like every municipality, county, fire district, state governments are experiencing budget difficulties EVEN without STAR being cut. So this is very bad news."
Mr. Feiner confirmed to WPCNR that Greenburgh is suffering from the legislature’s very quiet 10% slashing of the 2008-2009 STAR exemptions, because the town assessor's office computed the STAR exemption incorrectly in original property tax bills to residents.
Feiner reports Greenburgh has sent out additional property tax bills to residents because his own assessor had missed this year’s 10% cut in the STAR exemptions so silently enacted. (No news releases announced the 10% cut, just letters were sent to assessors to announce it from Albany.)
Feiner is sensitive to state STAR tinkering because the 2008-2009 10% cut in the State STAR Exemptions that taxpayers receive as deductions from their assessed home values was so “quietly” enacted by the State of New York, some local assessors missed it completely. The Town of Greenburgh Supervisor Paul Feiner confirmed to WPCNR Saturday, was one of those.
WPCNR had been advised of Greenburgh residents receiving additional property tax bills with the last month because of an error in Greenburgh computing the tax. Thousands of Town of Greenburgh residents are receiving additional bills from $50 to $100 based on the 10% cut in the STAR BASIC and ENHANCED exemptions, Feiner confirmed.
The 10% cut statewide helped to fund what was described locally as “additional education aid” was exclusively reported by WPCNR last April. No other media reported the state legislature decision to lower the STAR. Some local towns did not get the message. Greenburgh was one.
Feiner confirmed the oversight to the CitizeNetReporter: “A few Assessors in Westchester made similar mistakes - the state reduced STAR benefits in April and the town didn't catch the mistake.” Feiner believes that Harrison, Yorktown and Mamaroneck also made the same mistake, and had to send out additional bills.
How Greenburgh handled the tax fallout:
“The town sent out a supplemental bill to all the residents," Feiner said in a statement. "Most people received a bill that was in the low - mid $100 range. They would have had to pay the same amount to the town if the initial bill had been sent out correctly. The town is a collection agent for the school districts.
"I received a few complaints from residents and for the most part most people were understanding when we explained the reasons for the error. In the future we will be extra careful before tax bills are sent out so I don't think this mistake will happen again.”
Another additional 18% STAR CUT Planned in Governor’s Budget.
WPCNR asked Mr. Feiner what the town expected would be the impact of Governor David Patterson’s announced 18% cut in the STAR exemptions this year, as reported by the Department of Real Property Services newsletter.
January Property Tax Monitor First Announced Governor's STAR Cut plan: Above and below.
A WPCNR call to the Governor’s press office two weeks ago to determine if the 18% STAR cuts would erase the expected $2.7 Billion 2008 budget gap the state is now experiencing, has not been returned as yet.
Feiner said he did not have a handle on the impact on Greenburgh, saying “the assessor will provide board members with specific dollar estimates --highlighting the impact of the STAR cuts in each of the different school districts (in Greenburgh). The school district is independent of the town. But-- the STAR cuts will increase school taxes.”
Feiner observed: “The poor economy, school tax increases, state tax hikes on new items --is having an indirect impact on town officials. Residents, who supported the funding of some programs, are now speaking out against some initiatives they previously had supported.”
Asked about his reaction to the STAR Cuts and the possible 18% cut, Feiner issued this statement:
“ I am not pleased with the way the state has handled the STAR cuts. I also believe that there is a need to take a new look at how governments in NYS are structured --we need to rethink the need for a county government, look at restructuring governments at every level -- more sharing.”
Greenburgh Website message:
On Saturday, Feiner posted this message to the Town of Greenburgh website to his constituents, amplifying his concern and calling for government cuts in spending:
“I have been advised that the Governor's submitted budget cuts an additional 18% from the STAR benefits. In recent years the state has been reducing STAR benefits to taxpayers who receive basic STAR and those seniors over 65 who receive enhanced STAR.
School districts are independent of the town.
The cut in STAR exemptions, if enacted by the NYS Legislature, will result in higher school property tax bills since your school tax bills will not be subsidized by STAR to the degree that they once were.
Schools, like every municipality, county, fire district, state governments are experiencing budget difficulties EVEN without STAR being cut.
So this is very bad news.
If a school tax bill stays flat (which won't happen) you still will experience a school tax hike because of the significant STAR reductions.
I have asked the Assessor to provide the town with an analysis of the impact the 18% proposed STAR cut could have on each of the school districts within the town.
Members of the NYS Legislature will be reviewing the Governor's proposed budget in the coming months and are constitutionally required to approve a budget by April 1st.
Although the town and school districts are independent of each other - the additional tax burdens that will be placed on schools highlight (in my opinion) the need for all governments to look for ways to tighten our belts, to make government more efficient. The Town Board and I will devote significant resources reviewing all operations in the town.