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Schools delay veterans tax exemption   ADVERTISEMENT

Schools delay veterans tax exemption

FINGER LAKES—The recent decision to allow a school tax exemption for military veterans has many school districts pondering what action to take. Signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in December of 2013, school districts now have the option to implement a veterans tax exemption for school taxes. This would coincide with the exemptions veterans are already entitled to for county, city, town and village taxes. However, despite the intentions, many school boards have put off adopting the measure due to the tax increases that would come with it.
According to the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance, there are different assessments a veteran can qualify for depending on if they served during a period of war and if they served in a combat zone. There are also several other exemptions for veterans, which include exemptions for  Cold War service and disabled veterans.
The main issue revolving around the possible inclusion of school districts in the exemption plan is the state will not compensate the districts for the loss of tax revenue generated by these veterans. This would mean an increase in the tax rate to all of the non-exempt taxpayers in the district.
Locally, school boards have already delayed their decisions, choosing to let the March 1 deadlines come and go without approving the measure.
The Dundee school board considered the resolutions in February, but opted to not rush into making a decision. Board member Kristen VanValkenburg said during that meeting she would like to see more information on how much it would impact the non-exempt taxpayers in the district. Board member Matthew Camacho proposed conducting a non-binding straw poll during the district budget vote to gauge taxpayer opinion on the issue.
The Penn Yan school board discussed the veterans exemption in January, also choosing not to act on the new option until more details are fleshed out. Assistant Superintendent for Business Cathy Milliman said during that meeting there was not enough information yet to make an informed decision. She also proposed putting the issue to a non-binding informational vote in the community.
Superintendent David Hamilton said the exemption would not affect the school budget, but would instead shift the tax burden among community members. He said it is a big issue that needs further discussion. The board agreed to hold back on a decision for a year to see how the community feels as well as see how other school districts choose to address it.
“Do people value this as an exemption enough for people to support it?” Hamilton asked during the January meeting.
In Hammondsport, Superintendent Kyle Bower said the board has asked for more information on the overall impact of the new measure. He said it would take approximately $5 million off the tax rolls, which equates to an increase of nine cents in the tax rate for $1,000 of assessed value, if adopted at same same levels as county and towns. He said he does not believe the board will take any action on the exemption until next fall or winter for the tax levy year of 2015-16.