Board considers veteran’s tax exemption again, sets public hearing

The Greater Amsterdam School District Board of Education is revisiting the Alternative Veterans’ Tax Exemption issue and will hold a public hearing on the exemption prior to next month’s regular meeting on April 20 at 5:45 p.m. in the media center in the Amsterdam High School.

At Wednesday’s regular meeting, GASD School Board President Kent McHeard requested that a public hearing be held and a corresponding resolution be put to a vote as part of the April 20 meeting. He said, “We have been discussing this and looking at this for quite a while, and it’s just about time, I think, for us to act upon it one way or the other.”

If the exemption is adopted at the April meeting, it would not take effect until the 2017-18 school year. As he noted that any action taken this year would be too late to apply to the coming year’s budget, McHeard said, “My concern is that we’ve been going around this for quite a while, and the further we push it out, the greater tendency to continue to miss that deadline.”

Several veterans attended February’s regular school board meeting and Veterans Affairs Commission member, Dave Gomula, addressed the board speaking in favor of the exemption.

At that meeting, GASD Business Manager Kim Brumley reviewed the details of the exemption for the board. The exemption is broken into three tiers based on service. If the board passed the basic exemption, veterans who served during wartime would be eligible for a 15 percent reduction in the full assessed value of their parcel up to a maximum of $12,000. The board could increase or decrease the maximum by increments of $3,000 to as much as $36,000 to as low as $6,000.

Veterans who served in combat would be eligible for an additional 10 percent reduction for a total 25 percent reduction in the full assessed value of their parcel with an additional maximum of $8,000 if the board chose to adopt the basic exemption. The additional maximum at this level can be increased or decreased by increments of $2,000 to as high as $24,000 to as low as $4,000.
Veterans that sustained service related disabilities are also eligible for a percentage exemption equal to one half of their disability rating for up to a $40,000 reduction at the basic level. This can be increased or decreased by increments of $10,000 to as high as $120,000 to as low as $20,000.

The school district can also choose to adopt a law extending the exemption to Gold Star parents, those who lost a child in the military.

Both the City and Town of Amsterdam offer the tax exemption with the reductions set at a maximum of $12,000 for wartime service, $20,000 for combat service, and $40,000 for disability.
Superintendent Thomas Perillo had stated at a previous board meeting that there about 1,100 veterans living in the Amsterdam school district who would be eligible for the exemption. That is equal to ten percent of the taxable land parcels in the district.

If the school board adopted the exemption at the basic level, it would result in an average savings of $245 a year for veterans who served in wartime and an average of $425 a year for those who served in combat. Brumley could not calculate the savings for those who sustained a disability as it is calculated on an individual basis.

At the basic level, the reductions would come to a total of $367,182. This amount would have to be absorbed by the non-veteran tax payers in the district who account for 90 percent of the taxable land parcels. This would result in an increase of $37 per year for a resident with a parcel of land with a $100,000 taxable assessed property value.

Brumley further reminded the board that in instances where property owners receive tax exemptions from both the state and local government, the local exemption is applied first. She noted that currently veteran homeowners are eligible for a basic or enhanced STAR exemption, if the board adopts the veterans’ exemption, it would be applied before the STAR exemption.

She explained further by presenting the example of a veteran homeowner who is eligible for the enhanced STAR exemption. Under the current system, the veteran could be exempt from paying any school taxes, with the state paying the district approximately $450.

With the veterans’ exemption in place, if the same veteran homeowner came under the wartime exemption, local taxpayers would make up $245 out of the veterans exemption while the state would then pay $205 to the district for the STAR exemption.

Ashley Onyon

Ashley Onyon is a graduate of the journalism program at SUNY Albany. She has contributed articles to The Mohawk Valley Independent and the annual journal Upstream.