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Local schools looking into veteran tax breaks

Veterans like Al Kalinowski might soon be getting a break on their school taxes.
All across New York, school districts are now able to adopt the Alternative Veterans Exemption, which will allow veterans to get a break on their school property taxes.

The tax exemption will apply to veterans and their spouses who served during a period of war. This includes the Persian Gulf Conflict if served on or after Aug. 2, 1990, Korean War, Vietnam War and World War II.

School districts are allowed to choose whether or not they want to adopt the veterans exemption. In order for a school district to enact the basic veterans exemption, they must hold a public hearing and then must adopt a resolution allowing the exception.

There are three levels of the tax exemption; those who served in a non-combat zone, those who served in a combat zone and veterans who were disabled during service. School boards may also expand the exemption to Gold Star Parents, which is a parent whose child has been killed in the line of duty.

If enacted by a school district, a qualified veteran will receive an exemption up to 15 percent of their properties assessed value. If a veteran served in a combat zone, they can receive an extra 10 percent exemption equal to their properties assessed value. There is also an additional exemption for any veteran who was disabled during service. But, there are also caps on the amount that a veteran can receive. The caps are $8,000 for a veteran who served during wartime, $12,000 for a veteran who served in a combat zone and $40,000 for a veteran who was disabled during service.

In order to make up the difference, non-veterans taxpayers will see an increase in their tax rate in order to pay for the break given to the veterans.

After Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the law in December of 2013, there have been mixed reviews on the issue. But when looking at many local schools and their taxpayers, there has been a positive reaction to the veteran’s exemption so far.

One local school district that could be adopting the veterans exemption is West Valley Central School. WVCS held a straw poll during their budget vote May 20 to gauge the taxpayer’s opinion on the legislation; with 116 people saying they would support it and 28 saying they would not.

According to District Business Official Ann O’Brien, based on the assessed value and the amount the Board of Education adopts, veterans school tax bills could be decreased by as much as $285. O’Brien also estimates that a taxpayer’s whose home is valued at $100,000 and who are receiving the Basic New York State School Tax Relief Program exemption would see their tax bill increase by approximately $24 per year.

But just like every other school district, these numbers could easily change because of the many factors that come into play with legislation like this one.

“There are just so many variables that could affect it,” said O’Brien. “If they have advanced STAR, different home values or if the overall assessed values increase or decrease in the district, it’s just difficult to tell.”

Springville-Griffith Institute also will be taking steps to figure out how to handle the veteran’s exemption. They will work with the Erie County Assessors Association to help determine what kind of impact it will have. Once all that information has been gathered, with the help of the Board of Education, they will determine the best route to take with it. They hope to make a final decision on whether to go with it or not by the 2015-16 school year.

“We obviously want to support our veterans and any other worthy individuals in terms of tax exemption all we can,” said Ted Welsh, Business Administrator for S-GI. “But also our exemption level is so high right now that it’s becoming a real issue. But we review every exemption on a case-by-case basis and if it makes sense and we can offer it, we will certainly recommend it to the board.”

Pioneer Central School also held a straw poll during their budget vote May 20 to get the communities opinion on whether to offer the veteran’s exemption. People voted in favor of the veterans exemption 503-96. The Board of Education will review the results and discuss future options in their next board meeting June 3.

For more information on the veterans exemption, visit veterans.ny.gov.


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