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An Amish farm in St. Lawrence county. Photo: Sarah Harris
An Amish farm in St. Lawrence county. Photo: Sarah Harris

Why more Amish aren't registering for the STAR exemption, and how it's getting fixed

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New York state is urging people to re-register for their STAR property tax exemption before the deadline of December 31. Even if you've done it before, you need to sign up again - it's part of an effort by the state to curb fraud.

You can register online or by phone (here's how), but what if you don't have a computer or a phone? What if, say, you're Amish?

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Reported by

Nora Flaherty
Digital Editor, News

Actually, this is a big problem. For example, in Depeyster, which has a very large Amish community, the registration rate is only 65 percent. That's substantially less than other communities in our area, most of which are between about 70 and 80 percent registered.  

North Country State Sen. Patty Ritchie's working on fixing that problem. She says that when the registration drive first began, she became aware of one pretty obvious issue: "We heard from an Amish gentleman who said that this is going to be a problem because of course they don't use telephones or computers, so I had to reach out to the Department of Tax and Finance and work with them, and they agreed to create a paper form for the Amish families so they didn't miss out on their STAR rebate."

Even so, registration rates are quite low among the Amish, and Ritchie says she's been working with the Agri-Mark cooperative to get information out to the Amish families who sell milk to it. She's also doing in-person outreach: "I stopped personally at a couple of the Amish farms to speak with some of the families I'm personally familiar with, and one of the families agreed to take some of the brochures that we had to their Sunday church setting to make sure the information was getting out directly to the families."

The signup rate among the Amish is particularly low, but even among the larger population 14 percent of those who are eligible still haven't re-registered for the STAR exemption. It exempts the first $30,000 of the full value of a primary residence from school taxes, and, according to the state, saves people an average of $700 per year; it's meant for households where income is less than $500,000.

Hear Nora Flaherty's conversation with Sen. Patty Ritchie.

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