School districts across Long Island are reminding residents of the Dec. 31 deadline for homeowners to register for the Basic STAR exemption, which provides annual savings on school property taxes.
All homeowners receiving the Basic STAR exemption must register with the state in order to continue receiving the exemption in 2014 and after, according to the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance.
The average annual savings for Basic STAR recipients is $700 statewide, while in Nassau the average is $1,165 and in Suffolk it is $1,020, according to the department.
The registration -- the first in the 15-year history of the STAR program -- is necessary as part of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's initiative to protect against fraud and waste.
Residents can register online at www.tax.ny.gov or by calling 518-457-2036.
The state Tax Department, in figures released last week, said 73 percent of qualified Nassau residents and 77 percent of qualified Suffolk residents had registered. That meant 73,775 qualified homeowners in Nassau and 66,641 in Suffolk had not yet registered for savings they have coming to them under Basic STAR.
The Nassau town with the highest number of unregistered homeowners was Hempstead, with 43,435; in Suffolk, the town with the most unregistered homeowners was Brookhaven, with 21,917.
The exemption only is available on a homeowner's primary residence. A recent Taxation and Finance Department investigation showed some homeowners were claiming the exemption on more than one property.
The registration applies only to Basic STAR recipients. Senior citizens receiving the Enhanced STAR exemption are not affected by the registration. In order to continue receiving Enhanced STAR, seniors must continue to apply annually or participate in the Income Verification Program.
Local school districts have posted notices of the registration process for the Basic STAR exemption on their websites and sent mailings to the homes of all district residents -- not just parents of schoolchildren.
"We really believe it is our responsibility to inform and assist the taxpayers . . . and we are working diligently to help reduce the financial burden of our residents," Islip Superintendent Susan Schnebel said.
In that district, school officials posted registration information on the district website, hung posters in school buildings and included the information in newsletters sent to the homes of all district residents. They also posted it on the district's Facebook page.
In Carle Place, school officials sent notices to residents and posted reminders on the electronic sign outside the high school. "I'm fortunate that we have a relatively small, close-knit community and word has gotten out," said David Flatley, superintendent of Carle Place schools.
In addition, the state has been sending reminder postcards to residents.
The new registration affects Basic STAR exemptions for 2014 and beyond. Homeowners will not have to re-register every year.
The Department of Taxation and Finance will monitor homeowners' eligibility in future years based on information provided in the registration process.
Registering for Basic STAR
Homeowners can register for the Basic STAR property-tax exemption online at http://www.tax.ny.gov. You are required to:
Provide a STAR code. Codes have been mailed to all Basic STAR recipients, or homeowners can use the STAR code lookup at www.tax.ny.gov.
Provide the names and Social Security numbers of all owners of the property. Spouses must confirm that the property is the primary residence of one of its owners. Married couples with multiple residences may claim only one STAR exemption.
Confirm that the combined income of the owner and spouse who reside at the property does not exceed $500,000.
Confirm that no resident owner received a residency-based tax benefit from another state.
Homeowners also can register by calling 518-457-2036. This number operates Mondays through Fridays from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
For telephone assistance for the hearing or speech-impaired (by TDD): Call 518-485-5082, or dial 711 to get the NYS Relay Service and provide the operator with the phone number 518-457-2036.
-- JOIE TYRRELL