MEDIA CONTACT: Randolph Yunker (516) 571-5048
March 5, 2007
ASSESSOR LEVINSON CALLS FOR REFORM OF "ENHANCED STAR" FORMULAS
(Mineola, NY) When the Enhanced STAR program began in 1998 to help defray the property taxes paid by senior citizens 65 years or older with combined incomes under $60,000 dollars, no one realized that the benefit could be used by seniors living in multi-million dollar homes with the ability to pay tens of thousands of dollars in school taxes each year.
“The problem,” according to Nassau County Board of Assessors Chairman Harvey Levinson, “is that individuals with apparent wealth and the ability to exclude income through legal accounting write-offs are able to take advantage of a tax assistance program that was originally formulated to assist struggling low-income seniors. However, I am confident that as Governor Eliot Spitzer moves forward with his many noteworthy property tax reform policies, he will also address the hidden inequities of the STAR program on an individual and county-to- county basis.”
According to Chairman Levinson, the most notable examples of Enhanced STAR recipients who have benefited from the flawed STAR formula are most evident in the northern third of Nassau County. In the Village of Centre Island, one homeowner, with a property valued at over $6.4 million dollars with an annual school tax obligation of $51,454, received an Enhanced STAR savings of $1,359 and garnered an additional STAR Rebate Check of $251 for a total savings of $1,610 for the 2006-07 school tax year.
In other instances, an Oyster Bay Cove homeowner, with a property valued at over $4.9 million dollars and a school tax obligation of $39,135, received an Enhanced STAR savings (including the rebate check) of $1,610; an Old Westbury homeowner with a property valued at over $2.9 million dollars and a school tax obligation of $46,486 received a combined benefit of $3,332; a Woodbury homeowner with a property valued at over $2.3 million dollars and a $29,315 school tax obligation received $2,474 in combined savings.
What is often overlooked in examining Enhanced STAR benefits is the fact that, since 2002, Nassau County granted qualifying Enhanced STAR recipients additional savings off the county portion of the tax bill in the form of a partial senior citizen tax abatement. The net effect is, in addition to the school property tax savings indicated, the Centre Island property valued at $6.4 million dollars received a further discount on property taxes of $3,641; the $4.9 million dollar Oyster Bay Cove property received an abatement of $2,792, while the Old Westbury and Woodbury properties were issued abatements of $1,426 and $1,282 respectively.
“While the homeowner is not doing anything illegal in taking advantage of the program’s benefits as the law is written, Enhanced STAR and the county’s tax abatement program were never meant to subsidize homeowners with the financial wherewithal to pay,” concluded Chairman Levinson. “Clearly, the formulas must be changed so that only those who need the tax assistance most will benefit.”
Chairman Levinson’s analysis of the STAR program in Nassau County revealed that 167 homeowners with residential properties valued at over $1.5 million dollars for the 2006-2007 school tax year received Enhanced STAR savings. The tax savings (including the county abatement) was nearly $500,000.