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Tax rebate checks will flow, but when?

REPORTER FILE PHOTO Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr.

REPORTER FILE PHOTO | Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr.

There’s good and bad news for Shelter Islanders about their New York State tax rebate checks, the so-called tax freeze credits that reimburse homeowners for increases in local property taxes on their primary residences.The good news is the town and school district have had their efficiency plans approved by the state, qualifying taxpayers for rebates.

On the bad news side, if you were planning to use the money to buy holiday gifts, don’t count on receiving it in time.

In this second year of a three-year, $1.5 billion program to provide the checks, the state is behind in assessing efficiency plans and has yet to announce when the checks will be in the mail — even for those taxpayers in areas where their plans have been approved.

No information has been forthcoming about how much Islanders can expect to receive.

That word came this week from Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr. (I-Sag Harbor). He said plans were due from municipalities and school districts by June and were required to be approved by July 31. But the process has been delayed as the state fell behind in reviewing the plans, Mr. Thiele said.

The aim of the program has been to encourage school districts and local governments to share more services. Last year, the two shared a social worker for which both contributed.

That proved to cause some conflicts and has been resolved by the town hiring its own part-time social worker who begins this fall to work closely with the school social worker.

But the town and school district have combined forces this year on an after-school recreational program for students in grades two through five.

The efficiency plans drawn up by both were required to show that they would save at least 1 percent each year on the tax levy — the amount of taxes collected each year.

The state has reported that assessments show that savings initiatives more than doubled that 1 percent target.

In the first year of the program in 2014, 2.8 million checks went out to homeowners whose school districts stayed under the state-mandated 2 percent tax cap.

The Shelter Island School District has successfully stayed within the tax cap since it was imposed in 2011.

But Superintendent Leonard Skuggevik has warned that it would be a challenge to avoid piercing the tax cap when the Board of Education begins budgeting for the 2016-17 school term.

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