Sixty-nine percent of school board members who responded to an informal poll by the New York State School Boards Association said they oppose adopting exemptions for veterans on school taxes, something currently provided on other property taxes, the state group announced today.
Twenty-one percent of respondents said they support the exemption and 10 percent said they were unsure.
State legislation adopted last year allows school districts to vote on whether to provide tax breaks for veterans. They have to hold public hearings and vote on the issue by the end of this week for the exemption to take effect this year. Veterans have until Saturday to file for the exemption. School taxes can comprise two-thirds of a total property tax bill.
“School board members strongly support our veterans, but they believe that reimbursement for the veteran’s exemption should be covered by the state rather than by other local taxpayers,” Timothy G. Kremer, executive director of the School Boards Association, said in a statement. “The law as is presents school boards with a dilemma. If they adopt the exemption, that would increase taxes for other taxpayers in their district. If they do not adopt the exemption, they could be viewed as not being supportive of veterans.”
At a recent East Ramapo school district meeting, officials said they were concerned that other taxpayers would have to make up the difference for the veterans tax exemption and they planned to study what the impact would be, The Journal News reported. The Ramapo school district is holding a public hearing tonight and may vote on the matter afterward. In Westchester, several school districts have taken up the issue. The Carmel school district held a public hearing a few weeks ago. Ardsley schools opted not to hold a public hearing.
Before the new law took effect, there were three existing property tax exemptions for New York veterans. A qualified residential parcel receives an exemption equal to 15 percent of its assessed value. If a veteran can document service in a combat theater or zone, the property receives an additional exemption equal to 10 percent of its assessed value. If a veteran has received a service-connected disability rating from the federal government, there is an additional exemption equal to one-half of the disability rating, multiplied by the assessed value of the property.
Eligible veterans must submit the initial exemption application form to their assessor.
Other findings in the School Boards Association poll:
— Eighty-four percent of respondents don’t think Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed education aid for the 2014-15 fiscal year is enough to allow districts to stay within the state’s property tax cap while maintaining current programs and staff. Fourteen percent said the funding is sufficient, and 3 percent were unsure.
— Fifty-seven percent oppose a ballot referendum that would allow the state to borrow $2 billion to enable schools to invest in educational technology, such as high-speed broadband and laptop computers. Thirty percent are in favor of the borrowing initiative and 13 percent were unsure.
The results are based on an informal poll of school board members this month. There were between 636 and 645 responses, depending on the question.