To continue his efforts to provide meaningful tax relief to the residents of Long Island, Senator John Flanagan (2nd Senate District) announced a major initiative that will provide further relief for Long Island's overburdened taxpayers.
The multi-billion dollar property tax relief plan would significantly increase the benefits of the STAR rebate program and initiate a major restructuring of the school tax system, called the New York Stop Taxing Our Property (NY-STOP) program, that could lead to the elimination of school taxes.
"The top three priorities for 2008 must be tax relief, tax relief and tax relief and this package is an important step forward. We need to enact the real change that is needed to reduce the tax burden our residents face. The time is now for a major overhaul of our tax system and NY-STOP will provide the change we need," stated Senator Flanagan.
NY-STOP would provide relief to New Yorkers through a number of different ways:
ELIMINATING RESIDENTIAL PROPERTY TAXES
To provide homeowners with meaningful input regarding their school district's tax system, every school district would be authorized to take a public vote to determine if real property taxes on primary residences would be phased out over five years.
A petition signed by at least 25 percent of those who voted in the previous school budget vote would be required for a vote to be sanctioned. Any vote to eliminate school taxes would be held on the same day as a school district's budget vote.
Districts which enter into this system would be required to reduce residential real property taxes on primary homes by 20 percent annually until such tax was eliminated after five years. Additional state funding would be provided to these school districts to offset any loss of revenue due to the reduction in local taxes.
After five years, the formula would provide districts with an annual school aid cost-of-living increase.
PROPERTY TAX FREEZE FOR SENIORS
In an effort to provide senior residents with the tax relief they need, the proposal would authorize school districts to freeze the school tax rate for those aged 65 and over. This change would freeze the real property assessed value of their homes at a fixed rate.
Any loss of property tax revenue at the school level would be reimbursed by the state.
This freeze would be available, if authorized by a school district, to persons 65 years of age or older who own a primary residence and who have an income of $100,000 or less. Individuals would apply annually with their assessor to participate in this program by completing a form developed by the Office of Real Property Services.
Local assessors would be required to notify all local real property owners about the program and to apply for reimbursement from the state for the loss in property tax revenue.
BLUE RIBBON PROPERTY TAX REFORM COMMISSION
NY-STOP would also establish a Blue Ribbon Property Tax Reform Commission. The eleven-member commission, which would include experts in the fields of education, municipal finance and assessment administration, would examine the property tax system and offer reforms to relieve homeowners and other property owners of their increasing tax burdens.
The commission would be comprised of members appointed by the Governor and the leaders of the Assembly and the Senate. The members would report on a reform plan for schools and local governments to lower local tax burdens with a focus on enhanced accountability, alternative financing methods, governance options, property assessment plans, and tax containment policies.
The commission also would be charged with examining possible alternatives to the real property tax for funding schools and changes to the property assessment system.
MANDATE RELIEF PLAN
In order to help reduce costs for school districts and municipalities while reducing the tax burden faced by local property owners, NY-STOP includes a comprehensive mandate relief plan. The measure would require the State to cover the cost of any state mandated program imposed on municipalities or school districts.
"Mandates place an unfair burden on our taxpayers and the state must be responsible when it implements anything that increases school costs," said Senator Flanagan. "This entire package is aimed at relieving the pressure that school taxes place on the homeowners of our state and is a true overhauling of our current system. The time has come to stop taking small steps and to implement the broad sweeping changes that will protect our taxpayers while maintaining the educational system that our children deserve."
To provide more immediate and direct relief to homeowners, Senator Flanagan has also proposed increasing the size of STAR rebate checks. These increases, which would be implemented over the next two years, would double the size of the current STAR rebate for most homeowners and triple the size of the STAR rebate for seniors in just the next year.
It would also remove the current income eligibility thresholds instituted last year by Governor Spitzer.
For Suffolk residents, the increases proposed by Senator Flanagan would affect homeowners throughout income brackets. For homes with a combined income below $120,000, the rebate amount would increase from the 2007 average of $572 to an average of $1,145 in 2008 and $1,717 in 2009.
For homes with combined incomes of between $120,000 and $175,000, the check would climb from the average 2007 level of $429 to $859 in 2008 and $1,288 in 2009. For those above $175,000 in combined income, the household would now see checks that will average $572 in 2007 and $859 in 2008.
Meanwhile, senior homeowners in the Enhanced STAR program would receive a 2008 STAR rebate check triple the size of their 2007 STAR rebate check, while their 2009 STAR rebate check would be roughly four times the current amount. For these homeowners, the check would grow from the 2007 average of $421 to averages of $1,262 in 2008 and $1,683 in 2009.
Under these proposed increases, the total value of the STAR property tax rebates would grow from an estimated $1 billion in 2007 to $2.3 billion and $3.6 billion in 2008 and 2009, respectively. The $3.6 billion is approximately $2.1 billion above the projected level of relief that would occur under existing law in 2009-10.
"The STAR Rebate program has been extremely successful in providing direct relief to Long Island homeowners. That is why I fought to restore the program when Governor Spitzer tried to eliminate it last year and why I am looking to expand it this year. Since the money is the taxpayers money, we should give it directly back to them and make the amount significant enough to truly help reduce the burden our residents face," concluded Senator Flanagan.
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