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NYS Exposed: Many homeowners still waiting for homeowner rebates

January 05, 2017 11:28 PM

ROCHESTER -- Local homeowners are receiving checks in the mail from New York State. Those who live in communities that stayed under the property tax cap this year are getting a couple hundred dollars back and able to take advantage of a combination of credits.

Homeowners have been receiving checks through the state’s "tax-freeze" program which pays you back for growth in your municipal property taxes in 2016 -- that normally amounts to less than $40.

The check is combined in most cases, with another program called the "property-tax relief credit" which is offered to homeowners who live in municipalities that stayed under the property tax cap. According to the NYS Budget Division, the combined check for both programs averages about $280. A number of News10NBC viewers say they are eligible for the programs but still haven’t received their money.

"My son in Greece got $280-$270, my neighbor got $270... I want my money,” says Kathie Ryan, a homeowner in Brockport. She’s been waiting for her rebate check for weeks and has called the state tax department a number of times. "Initially, the calls only had a 10-minute wait or maybe a 15-minute wait -- that was acceptable but as more and more people aren't receiving things and getting more frustrated the wait times have gone up dramatically," she says.

News10NBC has heard from at least a dozen other homeowners with similar complaints.  

To qualify for the programs a homeowner has to be enrolled in the STAR or Enhanced STAR program, she has to live in a community where both the local government and the school district stayed under the property tax cap and the household income has to be less than $275,000. Ryan meets those requirements but still no check.

James Gazzale, a spokesman for the NYS Department of Taxation and Finance, says that most of the checks have gone out here in the Rochester-area but the department “continues to process property tax freeze and relief credit checks on a daily basis."

The checks, according to Gazzale, aren't mailed in any specific manor in terms of county, town, zip code. Instead they are issued as they're processed based on local data. The tax department says it relies on information provided by your taxing jurisdictions to calculate your credit. If your taxing jurisdictions do not provide the required information timely, your property tax freeze credit may be delayed.

The tax department has been inundated with phone calls from homeowners wondering where their money is which leads to the question: If the state can offer homeowners a credit check now, why can’t it just cut taxes on the front end? Well, experts say the governor wants homeowners to encourage local governments to stay under the tax cap and by dangling these checks over us, he’s hoping we keep the pressure on our county executives, mayors and supervisors.

Dr. Kent Gardner of the Center For Governmental Research says it’s mostly about the optics. 'The legislature goes along with it and likes the idea of being able to stand up and say, 'Well, you know those were great checks you just got last month, I was part of that. I was responsible for that and you should re-elect me,”” he says.

Keep in mind, it costs on average $3 for a single check to be cut and processed and think about how many of them are being sent. "It's a really complex program to manage and very expensive to manage, we are spending a lot of money on the people sitting in Albany who are figuring out what my check ought to be versus what your check should be,” Dr. Gardner says.

And it appears, at least at this point, the state tax department is having a hard time keeping up with the flood of calls it’s receiving. "It's just been one excuse after another and just one frustration after another,” Ryan says.

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For questions/concerns about the Property Tax Freeze/Relief call:  518-591-5232.

Information on property freeze credit
Information on tax-relief credit

If you have questions about the STAR program call: 518-457-2036.

Credits

Jennifer Lewke

Copyright 2017 - WHEC-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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