CANTON - School tax relief or STAR registrations in towns where there are large Amish settlements are lagging behind others in St. Lawrence County, which was at 80 percent, according to the states last update earlier this month.
The STAR program exempts homeowners from the first $30,000 of the full value of an owner-occupied, primary residence where the resident owner and spouse have combined income of less than $500,000 a year. Savings average $700 annually per household.
Although STAR has been a state program for awhile, the state is making people receiving Basic STAR reregister to reduce the number of property owners fraudulently getting the exemption on more than one property, on a home that was not a primary residence or because the owner earned more than the $500,000 income limit.
The delay among the Amish to register for the program by the deadline of Dec. 31 is demonstrated by several participation points lower in towns such as DeKalb and DePeyster, county Real Property Director Darren W. Colton said, who can recognize Amish names among the lists of property owners yet to submit paperwork.
It stands out, he said.
Efforts are underway to make sure as many property owners as possible, not only the Amish, complete the registration soon.
Mr. Coltons office sponsored a daylong event to assist property owners with registration. Although only 12 people came, his office continues to assist anyone who requests it.
Since then, weve tripled that, he said. I just dread what will happen if these tax bills go out and people arent registered.
Towns across the county are responding in different ways, including reminder mailers.
The state is starting to make automated telephone calls to property owners who have yet to register, reminding them to register at www.tax.ny.gov or call 518-457-2036 if they do not have Internet access.
State Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, asked dairy cooperative Agri-Mark to help get the word out to its Amish members.
Agri-Mark works with 130 to 140 Amish families who ship their milk to the cooperative using community bulk tanks.
To the best of our knowledge, weve gotten it in everybodys hands, said David B. Elliott, Agri-Marks membership manager for Northern New York. That doesnt mean theyve filled it out.
Mr. Elliott said the Amish often do not pay attention to government programs so may not understand the repercussions of not registering.
I am going to touch base with the bishops, he said.