Ann Marie Cook, president of Lifespan in Rochester, says phone lines have been busy today with lots of questions to a proposed change in the enhanced STAR program.
“We are getting some people calling in. People who are very concerned. Last year it changed and that upset people, when it was changed from an exemption to a rebate program and I think people don’t want more changes to the program because it’s worked so well for so long in helping people stay in the community,” said Cook.
Cook says the Enhanced STAR program helps many seniors stay in their homes longer. The program underwent a major change last year, and a new proposal from Governor Cuomo could shake things up again.
“It would mean really a two-step process rather than what it is now, which is a one-step process of going to your local assessor,” said Cook.
Right now, seniors are able to go to their local tax assessor’s office and file for the program face to face, but this new proposal would require all applicants to go through the state tax department instead.
“I think it becomes more difficult when you have people used to going to their local tax assessor and asking questions and they won’t have that option anymore if this proposal goes through,” said Cook.
Robert Criddle, Ogden’s tax assessor says that this could have a major impact on seniors who rely on this money.
“There’s a lot of senior citizens who may not be as computer savvy as they would have to be to do this application online, and they may be discouraged or may not even apply because of that,” said Criddle.
The other benefits he says, are that often times when someone comes in to apply for STAR, their local assessor is also able to tell them about other exemptions they may be eligible for, saving them even more money.
Currently, seniors have the option to fill these forms out online, or to go to their local assessor. Making it a requirement to do it through the state though, is where Criddle sees the potential for problems.
“Making it mandatory is a total disservice to the public and to the low income senior its not serving their needs,” said Criddle.