At its Feb. 9 meeting, the BH-BL Board of Education continued its thoughtful conversation about the possibility of offering local veterans a partial property tax exemption similar to what municipalities already offer through the Alternative Veterans Exemption.
Since 1984, counties, towns and villages across New York have been authorized to offer the Alternative Veterans Exemption, giving military veterans who served during wartime, in a combat zone or who have a service-related disability, a partial property tax exemption on their local taxes for their primary residence. In December 2013, the law was amended to permit school districts to offer the exemption.
To help guide board members as they lean toward adopting the Veterans Tax Exemption, they’d like to gather community input, possibly through a forum, a survey or an advisory vote. A decision on how best to collect such feedback is currently being discussed and will be shared with the public in the near future. Taking into consideration the time needed to gather information and come to a mindful, informed conclusion, the board will not decide by the March 1 deadline, but instead will look at the idea of implementing the tax exemption in the 2017-18 school year.
Implementing a tax exemption causes a redistribution of taxes among taxpayers, or a tax shift. Exemptions do not affect the total amount of money a district needs to raise--the tax levy. The state would not reimburse school districts for the taxes local veterans would not pay. Instead, local taxpayers who are not veterans would be assessed the difference. Therefore, if a town’s assessed value decreases due to exemptions, then all taxpayers would need to make up the monetary difference. The tax rate per $1,000 of assessed value would increase for all taxpayers in order to generate the same amount of taxes (i.e., tax levy.)
“The board and school administration have had many conversations at board and finance meetings about the Veterans’ Tax Exemption since it was amended to include school districts in 2013,” explains Board President John Blowers. “But, there’s a tax shift associated with this exemption so we feel it’s important to hear from our community so the board can make an informed decision about how we can balance the impact on other taxpayers with our community’s willingness to support its veterans.”
Whether or not the exemption is offered in any given community is up to the district’s school board. According to the law, if a school board decides to offer the exemption, it must also determine the level of exemption. There are up to 16 predefined levels to chose from, which a board could modify at any time via resolution. Districts must also decide whether to authorize an exemption for Gold Star parents--the parent of a child who died in the line of duty while serving in the United States armed forces during a period of war. Additionally, once the exemption is enacted it must always be offered to eligible residents.. BH-BL currently offers Senior Citizen and Disabilities Exemptions.
If the BH-BL board implements the minimum level of exemptions, eligible wartime veterans would receive a $6,000 exemption; combat veterans would receive a $10,000 exemption; and disabled veterans could receive additional exemptions beyond those amounts beginning in the 2017-18 school year. All of these exemptions will be adjusted by an individual town’s equalization rate. At this level it is estimated that the tax impact on other property owners in the BH-BL Central School District could be between $15 and $20 per year for a home valued at $200,000.