The Yonkers City Council this week unanimously approved offering veterans an exemption on school taxes, something that already applies to municipal property taxes.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the law in December, and school districts have to decide by the end of this week whether to opt in if they want veterans to get the exemption this year. Veterans have to apply for the benefit.
Yonkers is the first major city to take advantage of the state law, according to local officials. Yonkers has a dependent school district, meaning it doesn’t set spending or levy taxes. In most cases, school districts are independent and have the authority to approve the exemption.
“I often see how people will praise and thank veterans on Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day. This bill is a way for the Council to prove that we believe what we say and that what we say is what we do,” Majority Leader John Larkin said in a statement. “In this instance it’s a small gesture, but it’s a gesture that says to our veterans that we appreciate their sacrifice in keeping our country safe and free.”
Several school districts in the Lower Hudson Valley have been debating whether to offer the veterans exemption. The Carmel and Brewster school districts approved exemptions, and the Putnam Valley school board was scheduled to hold a public hearing on the issue Thursday evening. The tax deductions for Carmel schools will range from $220.55 to $816.76 for a disabled veteran.
“It’s the right thing to do for the communities to step up and give a little bit back to the veterans, the people who served this country,” said Karl Rohde, director of the Putnam County Veterans Service Agency, especially with significant military cuts proposed at the federal level.
The exemption includes a 15 percent reduction in the assessment of a residential property. Veterans who served in a combat theater or zone and disabled veterans are eligible for additional exemptions. Eligible veterans must submit the initial exemption application forms to their local tax assessor.
Some school boards, including East Ramapo, have criticized the law because it would place a heavier burden on the other property taxpayers.
Sixty-nine percent of school board members who responded to an informal poll by the New York State School Boards Association said they are against adopting exemptions for veterans on school taxes. Twenty-one percent of respondents said they support the exemption and 10 percent said they were unsure.
(Journal News file photo of Karl Rohde, director of the Putnam County Veterans Service Agency.)