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NNCS considering veterans exemption for school taxes

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NORFOLK - Norwood-Norfolk Central School officials are debating if they want to offer a new military veterans exemption on school taxes since they say doing that would put the financial burden on other district taxpayers.

Superintendent James M. Cruikshank told board of education members this week that the veterans exemption would be applied first to an eligible resident’s property, followed by the STAR tax exemption. He said that, while the state pays the school district for the STAR exemption revenue they’ve lost, they will not be doing the same for the veterans exemption.

For example, he said, if a veteran had a property assessed at $60,000 and received the enhanced STAR tax exemption, they would have paid no school taxes. That money, instead, would have come from the state. By applying the veterans exemption first, that would be less for the state to pay, he said.

”That shifts the tax burden from New York state to the local taxpayers,” he said. “The money is still going to come into the school, but it won’t come from New York state.”

While veterans have already qualified for partial tax exemptions on municipal property taxes, that hasn’t applied to school taxes until now, according to Mr. Cruikshank. The new law leaves the decision on whether to grant the exemption up to school districts.

“If they’re a veteran, there are different levels of exemptions. They get a reduction on their assessment and pay less taxes. The tax they would have paid gets shifted to non-veterans. It’s just kind of a shifting of who’s paying. It’s a new thing for school districts,” he said.

The exemptions include 15 percent reductions in assessed value for veterans who served during a time of war, another 10 percent for those who were in combat zones, and an additional reduction for service-connected disabilities.

The move would impact 173 parcels with a total assessment of $2.4 million in the district, the superintendent said. It would increase the tax rate per $1,000 of assessed value from $24.92 to $25.15, he said.

“We’re giving veterans a huge, well-deserved thank you, but at whose expense?” board President Jon D. Hazen wondered.

“Personally I would like to see it, but it’s not in the best interest of other taxpayers,” said board member Stephen Markum, who retired as a command master chief after 30 years in the U.S. Navy.

Mr. Markum said he was “prepared to defend this tonight,” but opted to go in the opposite direction after reading articles about the exemption.

“It’s typical since I’ve been on this board the way they (the state) shift things down and they look good,” board member David Flint said.

Board members have not yet decided if providing the tax exemption is a move they want to make.

“There are other schools looking at this. Less than five are currently discussing this. The tax exemption is a choice by this board. If we continue, we need to do it rather quickly,” Mr. Cruikshank suggested.

However, he said, if he had to make a recommendation on the exemption, it would be no because of the impact on other taxpayers.

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