Todd Huttunen began appraising more than 20 years ago with a few years off in between to pursue a career in cabinet making. He relegated that to hobby status and is currently an appraiser in an assessor’s office. His best friend dubbed him The Hall Monitor because of his rigidity and respect for rules. He offers Soapbox readers tongue-in-groove insight on appraisal issues. Today Todd breaks down the logic behind a tax rebate program to up the ante for his PBS membership. …Jonathan Miller
The note reads as follows:
Dear Fellow New Yorker:
In accordance with the new STAR school property tax rebate program  approved by Governor George Pataki and the State Legislature, we are pleased to provide you with the attached check to help reduce the burden of your 2006-07 school taxes. This money is in addition to your existing STAR benefit.
Andrew S. Eristoff
Commissioner, Taxation and Finance
The check is in the amount of $330.61 and it has my name written on it. Like everyone else, I prefer checks like this because I get to sign the back instead of the front.
My problem is I don’t know who to thank for this “tax rebate”. In my case, it’s not a rebate at all. It’s a gift of some kind but I don’t really know who gave it to me.
You see, I live in a co-op (in a studio apartment) whose market value is about $100,000. I don’t get a tax bill for my individual unit. The bill for the whole building is paid by the management agent and my fair share of that bill is included in my monthly maintenance. My share of the school tax this year, without STAR, would have been around $1,300.
But here’s the thing The Basic STAR exemption is worth roughly $1,600 this year in the Eastchester school district. Naturally, the only people who get the full $1,600 taken off their school tax bills are those whose bills exceed $1,600 in the first place, which is only fair. So, I really can’t complain about my school taxes because (thanks to STAR) I don’t pay any school taxes!
That fact notwithstanding, Governor Pataki, the State Legislature and the Commissioner of Taxation and Finance sent me a check for $330.61 to “help reduce the burden of (my) 2006-07 school taxes” but they can’t reduce my burden because I have no burden (other than the one I feel about having this check I don’t deserve).
I suppose I could send it back or tear it up but that wouldn’t ease my burden, it would just make me feel stupid. Then again, I could use it to pay down some of my own debt. But if paying down debt was a good idea I’m sure the State of New York would have used that money to pay down some of its own, rather than send rebates to 3,000,000 people right before Election Day. I think I’ll just use it to renew my WNYC and PBS memberships, and for that kind of money I’d better get a tote bag AND a coffee mug.