Monday, December 15, 2014

Public Hearing on Veteran's Exemption: 12/15 at 6pm at Ledgeview

The regularly scheduled Clarence Board of Education meeting takes place on Monday December 15th at 7pm at Ledgeview Elementary's library. 

At 6pm, however, there will be a public hearing on the proposed school tax exemption for veterans. 

Most Clarence taxpayers are likely willing to honor our veterans, and would support a school tax exemption for them - even given the fact that school taxes would have to be raised on the rest of us to cover the difference. 

However, people should make sure that the school board doesn't do what they just did in Niagara-Wheatfield. Specifically, no decision should be made until we have all the information in as to how this will affect non-veteran taxpayers and their STAR exemptions. 

Although the financial impact of the alternative veteran’s exemption was sketchy, five board members agreed to accept the resolution following a public hearing on the issue on Wednesday night.
The tax exemption will provide veterans a reduction on residential property assessments prepared after March 1 for school tax calculation. The law covers combat, wartime and disabled veterans with respective exemptions of $6,000, $4,000 and $10,000 on their assessments. The maximum exemption a veteran could receive would be a total of $20,000 for one who served in combat and was disabled.
No board members said they opposed the exemption but most wanted to know how the plan would impact other taxpayers.
We shouldn't have a problem supporting the exemption, but we should demand that the details of how it would affect the district and non-veteran taxpayers be a prerequisite to any vote. 
Furthermore, at least a few of the veterans lobbying for the exemption have not exactly been supporters of the district in the past. If an exemption is passed, Clarence voters should echo the concerns of Niagara-Wheatfield board member Gina Terbot, who noted: 
Terbot, who said some in the district said they would not support the district’s budget in May if the exemptions passed, told the 16 veterans at the meeting to come out and help get the budget passed.
Meanwhile, they're having a tough time in the Iroquois district, too. If the exemption passes there, 

...homeowners would pay an additional 1.5 percent in taxes to make up for the exemption.
Had the exemption been in effect for the 2014-15 school year, Iroquois district residents would have paid between $24 and $24.40 more per $100,000 of assessed valuation.
But it's not as simple as just that. 
George explained that the district’s reimbursement through the School Tax Relief Program, or STAR, would be affected by the alternative veterans exemption.
The state reimburses school districts for veterans who have a zero exemption on their school tax bills through Enhanced STAR.
However, the alternative veterans exemption comes off tax bills first, and the balance is removed by Enhanced STAR, which means the state would no longer be required to reimburse the difference to the school districts.
That puts more of the tax levy on the rest of the residents.
“A lot of these veterans have a zero exemption,” George said. “So this 1.5 figure is low; it will be higher.”
Board member Thomas D. DiScipio questioned whether it’s fair to offer the exemption to one group and exclude others who could also benefit from tax relief.
“There are some residents in this district who aren’t veterans and are in financial dire straits,” DiScipio pointed out.
One thing that the school boards in Iroquois and Niagara-Wheatfield can agree on is that it's unbelievably irresponsible for the governor and the state legislature to make local school boards shoulder not only the political burden of dealing with the implementation of this exemption, but by not funding it and requiring other taxpayers to foot the bill from within the district. 
If it is to be the policy of New York State to implement these sorts of exemptions, then it should be implemented everywhere, and the state should cover the cost.

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