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Board considers Veterans Tax Exemption; Vote expected in coming months

The Schalmont Central School District Board of Education conducted a public hearing on the Alternative Veterans’ Exemption at its meeting on Monday, Jan. 22. A vote on the exemption is expected in the coming months.

Since 1984, county, town and village leaders across New York have been authorized to offer the Alternative Veterans’ Exemption, giving military veterans who served during war time, in a combat zone or who have a service-related disability a partial property tax exemption on their local taxes for their primary residence. In December 2013, the law was amended to permit school districts to offer the exemption, as well. Whether or not the exemption is offered in any given community is up to the local school board.

Though the public hearing was conducted recently, this is an issue that the board has considered for some time. A timeline of the board's actions is below:

Subject to maximum levels of exemption set by the taxing jurisdiction, school districts are allowed to offer a 15 percent reduction in assessed value for veterans who served during a time of war, plus an additional 10 percent for those who served in combat zones. Veterans could also receive a reduction based on their service-connected disabilities.

Implementing a tax exemption causes a redistribution of taxes among taxpayers, or a tax shift to those who do not qualify for the exemption. Exemptions do not affect the tax levy – the total amount of money a district needs to raise.

Unlike STAR, the alternative veterans’ tax exemption is not reimbursed by the state to school districts.

Instead, the exemption reduces the total assessed value of properties within a district. If the Board of Education decides to offer the exemption to veterans, all other property owners will have to pay more in taxes to make up for the loss in value.

Because of this redistribution, the Schalmont Board of Education, in 2016, sent a letter to the Chair of the Senate Veterans, Homeland Security and Military Affairs, Thomas Croci, asking that the state reimburse the veterans tax exemption.

At the time that letter was sent, Schalmont estimated that the tax burden shift to non-veterans in the district would be significant –anywhere from a 0.26 to 1.92 percent increase to the rest of the community. This of course comes at a time when the state is funding education at pace that is far behind its cost.

“The issue of fairness has to be considered alongside the issue of honoring veterans,” the Board wrote. “With this law in place, the state has put school districts in the position to argue neighbor versus neighbor, and that isn’t how exemptions should be put into place.”

Last year, the district estimated what the veterans tax exemption would cost non-veteran tax payer, by town:

Town

Type of Tax

Cost per $100,000 of assessed value for MINIMUM Veterans Tax Exemption

Cost per $100,000 of assessed value for MAXIMUM Veterans Tax Exemption

Guilderland

Homestead

$5.86

$30.00

 

Non- Homestead

$8.02

$40.13

Florida

Homestead

$64.91

$37.51

 

Non- Homestead

$12.41

$62.11

Duanesburg

Homestead

$95.68

$535.47

 

Non- Homestead

$17.92

$89.72

Princetown

Homestead

$18.52

$95.31

 

Non- Homestead

$17.97

$89.93

Rotterdam

Homestead

$5.50

$28.26

 

Non- Homestead

$11.24

$56.24

Note: These are the district’s best estimates for the year 2017. Town equalization rates and number of exemptions vary by town, by year.

A month after the Board’s letter to Senator Croci, Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara introduced a bill that would shift the burden of the Alternative Veteran’s Tax Exemption from local taxpayers to the state by creating an additional enhanced exemption for the School Tax Relief Program (STAR) program specifically for veterans, similar to that of the current enhanced STAR program for New York's seniors.

Dubbed “V-STAR,” the bill remains in Assembly Committee. You can show your support for the bill by downloading a letter here [PDF] and sending it to the Assemblyman’s office.

“As a Board of Education, we are tasked with responsibly governing the school district – not for one group of taxpayers or another, but for the entire community,” said Board president John DiCocco. “The Alternative Veterans Tax Exemption is an issue this board has struggled with since 2013. We’ve surveyed the community, discussed the exemption at public meetings, and have now conducted a public hearing on the matter. While we support the veterans of our community, at the same time we have the responsibility to consider the ability of the entire community to pay for our students' education. Shifting the burden of the entire tax levy to nonveteran taxpayers, many of whom are also suffering from financial burdens, is an impossible choice for any board of education to make within their community.”

“This is a decision that will affect all of our taxpayers,” said Schalmont Superintendent Dr. Carol A. Pallas. “My hope is that as many people as possible show up at our upcoming board meetings to let the board know how they feel about the exemption.”