Relaxed Rebate

ALBANY – Twelve years after purchasing an Albany-area condo, a paperwork error has caught up to Chautauqua County’s state senator.

The Albany Times Union published a story Thursday morning, reporting state Sen. Catharine Young, R-Olean, has been improperly claiming a School Tax Assessment Relief exemption since 2001 on both the condo she owns in North Greenbush, as well as her home in Cattaraugus County.

However, Thursday afternoon, Young received an email from John Harkin, town of North Greenbush assessor, stating that an error had been made.

“I have researched the STAR exemption on the property in the Town of North Greenbush and found that the exemption was on the property prior to your purchasing it,” Harkin wrote.

Young said that claiming both properties under the program is an honest mistake, one she was unaware of until recently.

“Like many families my husband handles all of our financial matters,” she said. “I just found out about this. I took immediate action to correct it. I have filed the appropriate legal documents to cancel the STAR and repay the full amount owed. The assessor is calculating how much and as soon as I have the assessor’s figures, it will be paid in full.”

Harkin went on to say in his email to Young that the assessor had sent a STAR application to the North Greenbush address, however it was returned to the post office. The assessor then never removed the exemption from the property.

“While a careful reading of the School Tax bill would have revealed this fact it appears there was no affirmative action taken by either you or your Husband to claim this STAR exemption,” Harkin wrote. “It certainly appears to me that this was an honest error by both parties. Sorry for any troubles this has certainly caused you in the past few days.”

The New York state STAR program provides partial exemptions for households that earn less than $500,000 annually. The program, however, has gone mostly unchecked by the state up to this point. Some of those who have taken advantage of the program have done so by either illegally subdividing rooming houses or claiming vacation homes or weekend residences as primary homes.

The Albany Times Union reports that, according to Olean Assessor Nancy Champlin, the Youngs first claimed an exemption on their home in Olean in 1999. Records then show the Youngs claimed a second exemption on their North Greenbush Condo beginning in August 2001. Since 2001, the exemptions appear to have been worth more than $1,000, including $218.63 last year.

The application for the School Tax Relief Program requires the name, telephone numbers and mailing addresses of property owners. Additionally, it requires the location of the property being applied for exemption.

The application also asks if the combined income of the property owners is more than $500,000, in which case, the applicant is not eligible for STAR. The second question on the application asks, “Do you or your spouse own any other property that is currently receiving STAR exemption?”

Resident owners are required to sign and date the form, stating, “I (we) certify that all of the above information is correct, that the property listed above is owned by me (us) and is my (our) primary residence and that my (our) 2011 income was less than $500,000. I (we) understand it is my (our) obligation to notify the assessor if I (we) relocate to another primary residence and to provide any documentation of eligibility that is requested.”

The document also warns that anyone who misrepresents primary residence, age or income shall be subject to a $100 penalty, shall be prohibited from receiving the STAR exemption for five years and may be subject to criminal prosecution.