About a third of Niagara County households eligible to have their school taxes lowered through a state exemption have failed to update their information with the state as they are required to do before the end of the year.
In order to cut down on fraud and abuse, the state is making participants in the Basic STAR program re-register by Dec. 31 or lose the benefit, which could cost the average homeowner between $600 and $800 per year.
State Sen. George D. Maziarz, R-Newfane, and Assemblyman John D. Ceretto, R-Lewiston, on Wednesday urged those who have yet to re-register to do so.
“It’s money in your pocket,” Maziarz said.
During a midday news conference in Niagara Falls City Hall, the pair of state lawmakers presented figures from the state Department of Taxation & Finance which indicated, by municipality, the renewal rates of eligible homeowners.
While county-wide about 33 percent have not re-registered, it’s higher in some municipalities, like the City of Niagara Falls, the Town of Niagara, Somerset and Hartland.
Overall, the renewal rate is slightly worse in Erie County, where 40 percent of eligible recipients have not refiled. In the City of Buffalo, 55 percent have not renewed, according to figures presented by Maziarz’s office.
Orleans County is doing a little worse than Niagara.
There between 36 percent and 37 percent of households have not re-registered.
Eligible homeowners can re-register online at www.tax.ny.gov or by phone at (518) 457-2036.
The state mailed out letters after Labor Day to each participant which had a unique ID number required for the re-registration process. If property owners have misplaced that information, they can still re-register by answering several property-specific questions.
Falls City Assessor James Bird said the entire process online only takes two or three minutes to complete.
Anyone who may need help filing the information online may visit the Department of Motor Vehicles office, 1001 11th St., in the Falls between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Friday for assistance.
Future in-person help sessions will be scheduled in North Tonawanda and Lockport, Maziarz said.
Senior citizens, those 65 and older, who receive the Enhanced STAR exemption do not have to re-register.