How The Local Government Is Targeting Senior Citizens

I’m a Social Media maniac. I read so many events and happenings in my area you’d think I was the mayor. I crave keeping current so I ‘like’ my local Chamber of Commerce as well as all the local papers and other local government agencies and politicians on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and email.

You can imagine my surprise when I read a tiny article online in our local paper that starting January 1, 2019 all senior citizens, age 65 and over, had to file their property tax reduction application annually instead of the previous one-time-only. Failure to file the appropriate new application would mean forfeiture of this very valuable tax reduction. Now, if I didn’t read this notice on line, I would have never known about this recent change in our New York State law. I would have lost this property tax reduction and would have been hit with a life-altering, wallet-hitting penalty through no fault of my own. Except for ignorance.

I called our local assessor’s office to confirm this new change in our state law and it was confirmed to be accurate. I also asked the assessor if their office was going to mail out notices to the senior citizens alerting them to the change in the law. The response was ‘no’. Apparently, you’re on your own here. I also asked the assessor if there was any change to the normal STARR school tax reduction. His reply was that system requirement stayed the same. You only had to apply once, agree to having your annual tax filing reviewed and each year afterwards would award you a reduction in your school taxes.

Do you see what I am getting at here? Regular folks didn’t have to do anything once they applied for a property tax reduction. But, if you were over 65 and qualified for the additional property tax reduction, you now had to file for it annually. How many older homeowners, say in their 70’s, 80’s or even in their 90’s would have the continual mental abilities to keep filing year after year after year? As the homeowner aged, their mental capacity would dwindle and either they could no longer fill out the lengthy application nor remember that the annual application was due!  They would either have to have a family member file the Senior Citizen Property Reduction papers for them or just suffer the consequences by failing to file thus paying the tortuous additional taxes now due.

Politicians in my state of New York are always touting how much they care about the little guy/gal! How much they protect the elderly. The impoverished. The working poor. The children. And yes, even the undocumented illegal immigrant.

Really?

The vast majority of New Yorkers experiencing homelessness – over 63,000 homeless men, women and children – spend the night instead within the city’s shelter system where they remain unseen. In a city of 8.5 million people, nearly 1 in every 128 New Yorkers is currently homeless. And this is just in New York City!

homeless in nyc

Homelessness in the state of New York has worsened dramatically over the past five years.
Between 2011, when Governor Cuomo took office, and 2015, the number of people sleeping each night in homeless shelters statewide soared by 40.9 percent. And over the same period, the number of homeless families with children in shelters statewide rose by 29.1 percent. Currently there are well over 84,000 people, including more than 15,000 families and 31,000 children sleeping each night in homeless shelters statewide.
New York now has the highest statewide homeless population ever recorded, and the state’s homeless population has increased steadily each of the past five years since Governor Cuomo took office. Cuomo was just re-elected for a third term!
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The rise in homelessness is shocking. And frightening.

There is no doubt that this recent change in the Over 65 application was intentionally implemented by Governor Cuomo. The more the Over 65 crowd fails to file properly, the more income the state collects. What do you think is going to happen to the Senior Citizen homeowners in my state, who rely heavily on receiving those property tax breaks in order to remain in their homes, if they don’t or can’t fill out those now, newly-required annual property applications? New York State is horrific to people who don’t pay their property taxes on time. Miss just one payment and you may find your home being sold at auction on the state’s capital front steps! Fall short of even one penny and the state will reject your entire property tax payment. And if you need to pay your taxes with a credit card, you must appear, in person, at the tax office in order to pay your bill!

Is it any wonder that New York State ranks 4th in the country for residents fleeing the state in droves! But here’s the kicker…..what makes anyone think that the next state they move to won’t be any different than New York in a few years? That’s what happened to me when we settled in Florida. Rude awakening call! Florida may not charge any income tax but they bleed the most they can out of you in every other category including property taxes! In only a year and a half, our Florida property taxes went from $700 annually to $2234! With no end in sight. Plus Florida added on a CDD tax (to build roads) of $1038 (figures are estimates now….I’m not looking them up anymore….but you get the idea!) By the time Florida got through with us, our total property taxes and HOA fees were hovering at $9700 annually vs $5035 in NY. Yes! It was actually cheaper for us to live in NY than Florida. Go figure!

My advice to any Senior Citizen homeowner out there is to do what I do: follow your local government, keep abreast and read all your local newspapers (for free, online) and ‘like’ your Chamber Of Commerce on all social media outlets. If you feel you can’t keep up with current events, ask your adult child, a friend or an advocate to do it for you. I’m sad and sorry to say that we Senior Citizens are targets and we have to do what we have to do to fight back. On the streets of NY, if you have white hair, your life is in danger. Each and every night I watch the news and each and every night some elderly person is getting their head kicked in for no good reason. It’s a very sad commentary on our current state of affairs, but our reality nonetheless.

Here are two sample news clip videos of what I see almost every night. Be forewarned, they’re brutal and disturbing:

My husband and I sat down together and we filled out and filed the newly required documents necessary to get both our STARR school tax reduction and our Senior Citizen property tax reduction. We’re fortunate because I’m a bookkeeper, a financial expert. I have a computer. I have a printer. I have a copier. I had to attach our 2017 1040 tax returns to all four applications (yes, four!!!) If I wasn’t here to do this work, my husband would have had to hire and pay either a CPA or a freelance bookkeeper to do this work for him.

We both had to drive to Main Street downtown and hand over our applications to our town’s assessor. The assessor reviewed each and every document and then stamped each and every one with his approval. The deadline is March 1st. Check with your own local assessor’s office because each municipality may have a different deadline date.

Just a little something to make your life a bit more complicated than necessary.

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13 comments

      • Lara, I just checked. Ours is $1350 to be exact and limited to the 2% cap Cuomo also has in place. Our school taxes can never go up more than 2% per year, which is a very good thing. From what I understand, Cuomo has been considering making the 2% cap permanent. If the school taxes stay within the 2% annual cap, Cuomo rewards the district by giving us a certain percentage refund. This year we got a refund check of $158. I think I am accurate on the refund amount. That’s the problem with getting older. Unless I write it down, it’s fuzzy. UGH.

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  1. Wow. I did see there was a cap on this as far as income. Do you know if social security amounts are considered income? My elderly parents live in upstate NY but they bring in more than $29,000 a year (which is the cap) with both my Dad’s pension and their social security checks.

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    • Sharon, the top for the STARR exemption is $86,300. For the Senior Exemption, income must be between $3,000 and $29,000. There is a sliding scale option on yearly income set as high as $37,999.99. DH and I fall into under the $29,000, which also well fits the STARR requirements also.

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    • Sharon, I just looked through my file. Back in 2016, in order to get the Senior discount, income had to be under $84,550 plus be 65 years of age. The Basic Starr Exemption was income had to be under $500,000 in 2014. Boy, oh boy, how times have changed. Big HUGE difference from what it is today for 2018 and going forward.

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  2. Geez that’s just plain sad. I just turned 65 so will have to see Arizona offers any property tax relief. Our property taxes just went up 7% year over year they say for teacher salary increases but who knows where the money ends up. Not seeing that type % of raises where I work to keep up. AZ also quietly slid a $32.00 new fee on the licence plate renewal listed as a public safety charge to fund the DPS (state highway police). They are playing slight of hand so we don’t notice all these outside the normal funding schemes. I guess if you don’t notice it it’s not a tax increase…they seem to get the money one way or another.

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    • Hi Steven. Florida and Arizona are states many people are flocking to, thinking they are escaping higher taxes. Not so. The municipalities have to get their money someplace, so as you have noted, they ‘sneak’ it in somehow. Our state just forced all of us to buy different colored license plates. Why? In order to raise cash. We went from black & yellow to blue & white and now we are back to black & yellow. Ridiculous.
      Good luck out there. Be ever so vigilant!

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