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Property tax changes must be filed by Mar. 15

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As the deadline approaches for two important property tax issues facing the city, residents in Queens have been urged by officials to circle March 15 on their calenders.

According to Borough President Helen Marshall, one, two and three-family homeowners in Queens should be aware of any corrections that need to be made to their notices of property value and file those changes with the city's Department of Finance by no later than March 15. The notices, which were sent out in early February, detail the property's market value along with any tax exemptions approved for the coming year, which include benefits for veterans, senior citizens, disabled homeowners and good Samaritans.

"It is important for property owners to look over their notices and make certain that the information is correct and that all their exemptions are included," said Marshall, adding that Queens residents will pay taxes on property with a combined market value assessed at $174 billion in 2005, an increase of 13.64 percent over last year's assessed value of approximately $150 billion.

Daniel Andrews, Marshall's spokesman, said many homeowners often forfeit their rights to exemptions because they are unaware of the programs the city offers and are therefore ignorant about their eligibility.

"People sometimes, oftentimes, are not aware of them. They haven't applied because of that and they should apply because they are entitled to it," said Andrews. "Some people find the rules a bit complex or may have difficulty visually seeing them, so they might want to have somebody check it over with them."

He added, "A big part of (property tax exemptions) is just knowing these programs exist, because the city offers a multitude of them. The response you often get is, 'I didn't know there was a certain program.'"

For example, the senior citizens homeowners exemption offers a partial tax exemption for property owners who are 65 years of age or older with an annual income below $32,400.

Andrews also said homeowners should make sure any increase in property value listed on the notices does not exceed or fall short of the percentage increase of 13.64.

The application deadline for property tax exemptions is also March 15. Forms can be obtained through the Department of Finance Web site at www.nyc.gov/html/dof/home.html or by calling the department at (212) 504-4080.

In addition, Marshall echoed the sentiments of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who recently warned owners of homes, cooperatives and condominiums in New York City that March 15 is also the deadline to apply for the second round of $400 property tax rebates.

"New York's homeowners deserve the $400 rebate," Bloomberg said. "Our homeowners made tremendous sacrifices to help get the city through its fiscal crisis. Without their commitment, we would have faced crippling cuts and layoffs that would have destroyed our quality of life. I encourage all homeowners who have not applied for the rebate to do so."

Bloomberg's warning primarily pertains to homeowners who have moved since Oct. 15, 2004, when the first round of rebates was mailed. Officials said homeowners need to notify the Department of Finance in order for the $400 check to be mailed to the proper address.

Homeowners who received the first rebate check and have not moved "simply need to pay taxes on time and you will get your check in October," said Department of Finance Commissioner Martha E. Stark. She added that those who had purchased a home in the city since Oct. 15 or did not apply for the first rebate should call 311 to determine whether or not they need to apply.

To be eligible for the monies, homeowners must complete the School Tax Relief, or STAR, application, if they have not already done so, in order to prove primary residency.

According to Department of Finance spokesman Joanna Perlman, the rebates-which were approved by the Legislature in 2004 as a means of attempting to reimburse homeowners for Bloomberg's property tax hikes two years ago-are to be drawn out over three years, pending the city council's approval.

If approved, Perlman said this year's checks will be mailed "on or near" Oct. 1, 2005. The total amount to be rebated throughout the city is approximately $250 million per year, which will be duplicated a third time in 2006, contingent on the mayor's recommendation and the Council's approval.

"We needed the homeowners to bail us out and this is a way to repay them," said Perlman. "We think we have most people who are eligible for STAR already in the program, so we're doing pretty well with that."

According to officials, approximately 370,000 rebate checks were sent out in the first round.

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