The Check Is In The Mail
By now, hundreds of thousands of homeowners in New York City, including many of you reading this, should have received some good news in your mailboxes in the form of checks for $400 from city government. A few days ago, our administration sent out about 370,000 property tax rebate checks. They were the first round of rebates that will total $250 million and will eventually reach more than 600,000 homeowners in all five boroughs.
These $400 rebates are going to New Yorkers who made the biggest sacrifices to protect essential city services during the fiscal crisis. Nearly two years ago, we raised property taxes to help balance the budget. That meant that homeowners—many of them older New Yorkers on fixed incomes—had to dig deeper into their pockets when their own family budgets were already stretched thin. But because they did, today New York City is coming back. Our quality of life is better than it was three years ago. We've driven crime down to record lows, and the safest big city in the nation is getting even safer. The streets are the cleanest they've been in 30 years. We're on course to finance construction of affordable housing for 200,000 New Yorkers by the end of 2008—the biggest housing initiative in the city in 20 years. And our economy is growing again. We've created nearly 50,000 private sector jobs in the last 12 months alone. Unemployment, while still too high, is 6.7 percent--the lowest it has been since September 11, 2001.
In most cases, the rebates that homeowners are getting will virtually offset the higher property taxes they paid. And most homeowners will spend the rebates at neighborhood businesses. That will help keep our economy growing and create jobs in all five boroughs.
We want every homeowner who is eligible to receive a rebate. To qualify, you must use your home as your primary residence. Our way of making sure that you do is to enroll you in the state STAR property tax reduction program, if you're not enrolled already. If you're not, there is still time, but you've got to act quickly. Homeowners who submit STAR applications to the city Finance Department by October 15 will still qualify to receive rebates this year.
The rebates mailed out last week went to the owners of houses and condominiums. Co-op apartment owners will receive checks in a few weeks. That's because we're sending them directly to the apartment owners, not to their management companies. It's going to take a little longer, but I'm sure it's the way that apartment owners want it. There are also about 40,000 homeowners who are enrolled in STAR but who owe the city back taxes. They have until October 15 to pay what they owe so that they can receive their rebates. Anyone who has questions about eligibility should call the Citizen Service Hotline at 311, or visit the city Web site at www.nyc.gov for more information.
By giving city government more money in taxes, homeowners helped us all get through the fiscal crisis. Now that New York City's economic outlook is brightening, they deserve to get money back. It's just the right thing to do.