New York State's School Tax Assessment Reduction Program (STAR)

School taxes are kind of nuts in New York. For my residence, we pay about 3x as much in school taxes each year than we do for other property taxes (Town, County, Library, Fire, etc.).

This is simply a fact of living in New York, which ranks #2 in the country in education spending at $56 billion in 2013-2014. There are many factors that go into this - population density of New York City, high cost of living, generally strong teacher's unions - that aren't all controllable at the local level.

For all of this spending, New York is rated as one of the strongest public school systems in the nation. While not in the upper tier according to most third-party reviews, keep in mind that most everything is local - some school districts are far more efficient than others in terms of educational quality and spending.


In the interest of full disclosure, my wife is a teacher in a local school district.

The good news is that New York State offers a school tax assessment exemption for property owners that applies to their primary residence. New property owners must apply prior to March 2nd, 2015 to be eligible.

The basic STAR benefit reduces assessments by about $30,000 of full market value, so the actual dollar amount of the benefit varies depending on your local school tax rate. For my home in 2014, the reduction was worth $936 this year, while most Tuxedo residents received $1,002 for the Monroe-Woodbury school district (north part of town), while Tuxedo Union Free School District residents received a $485 reduction (southern part of town).

To apply for the basic STAR, you must meet three criteria. The home must be your primary residence. You cannot receive a tax reduction for another property (such as another STAR benefit on your second home, or a Florida homestead exemption). The family (owner & spouse) income must be less than $500,000 for the prior tax year. And the application must be submitted prior to March 1st of the taxable year.

Basic STAR recipients do not need to renew annually. Once you're on the program, you continue to receive the benefit until you revoke it, sell the property, or exceed the income criteria.

While forms are available online (here), applications are submitted to your local property assessor. In Tuxedo, this is Gregory Stevens. Applications must be signed by the owners.

If you're not sure if you're currently enrolled, check with your assessor.

Enhanced STAR benefits may be available for seniors. Enhanced STAR exempts the first $63,300 of property value, thus it is worth 2x the basic STAR. Enhanced STAR applicants must be over the age of 65 (by the end of the year), must be your primary residence, may not receive any other property tax exemption, and total owner's income may not exceed $83,300 for the prior year.

Check with New York State and/or your local assessor for more information.