A recent Tax Watch Chart that appeared in the February 21, 2014 Journal News had a headline that said “Tax Free in Your Town.” It highlighted the number of parcels and the percentages of exempt properties in each Town. After reviewing the chart, one might think that the majority of the land in Rockland County is exempt and not paying property taxes. However, in small type the chart stated the percentages included STAR Exemptions for our school taxes.
When one further examines exactly what the STAR exemption does to those numbers, one would see exactly how STAR can skew those numbers. In Clarkstown 21,855 parcels were listed in the chart as having exemptions. Of those 21,855 parcels, 21,201 are properties with a STAR exemption. Any household making less than $500,000 qualifies for a STAR exemption, which accounts for an average savings of $1,000+ off a residents’ school tax bill. That means the remaining 525 parcels have some other exemption, such as schools, county or town parkland, municipal property or buildings like a police station, Town or Village Hall, colleges, firehouses, ambulance corps buildings, courthouses, cemeteries and not for profits. Of the 21,855 properties with an exemption, about 97 percent are STAR exemptions and 3 percent are all other categories. Tax exempt properties are mandated by federal and state statutes, not Town law.
As a former New York State Assemblyman, I was a co-sponsor of the legislation that created the STAR Program. It was a program to lessen the school tax burden on suburban property owners. One of the most important and significant pieces of NY State Legislation ever put into law to assist homeowners with the high burden of school taxes. The STAR Program is what 97 percent of the partial tax exemption on those parcels is all about. The Chart should have made that more prominent and clear.
Alexander J. Gromack
Supervisor, Town of Clarkstown