Weekly Feature

2014-10-22 / Front Page

District gets details about veterans tax exemption

by STEVEN JAGORD
Editor

The Clarence Central School District may soon consider whether or not to opt in on a new tax law that would allow veterans an exemption on a portion of their properties for school district tax purposes.

The legislation, Tax Law 458-a, was signed into law in December by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

During the Board of Education meeting on Monday night, Nancy DiLonardo, deputy director for Erie County Real Property Tax Services, gave a presentation to the board, as well as about two dozen veterans in attendance. She covered how the law would impact veterans, residents and the district if adopted.

For town and county governments, the Alternative Veterans Exemption originally took effect in the 1980s and veterans had to have served on active duty in designated periods of war. There are three levels of exemptions based on that service.

Those levels are 15 percent for noncombat, wartime veterans; 25 percent for wartime combat; and 50 percent for disabled veterans. Governing bodies are then able to adopt cap amounts within their jurisdiction. DiLonardo used an $18,000/$30,000/$60,000 exemption cap example.

“The equalization rate for the town is at 100 percent, so whatever [cap] level you adopt, that is going to be the maximum amount the veteran could save if you choose to adopt this exemption,” DiLonardo said.

In 2008, an exemption for Cold War veterans was also adopted, but that exemption is not applicable to the Alternative Veterans Exemption for school districts.

If a resident already has the Alternative Veterans Exemption for county or town purposes, he or she will automatically qualify for the school tax exemption, if adopted. In the Clarence School District, 1,214 vets currently have Alt-Vet Exemption status, which would equate to a $27.5 million reduction in taxable assessed property values for school purposes when using DiLonardo’s exemption cap example.

DiLonardo estimated that about 213 more veterans that do not already have the Alt-Vet Exemption status could apply, adding another possible $6.4 million to the reduction in taxable assessed property. Seventy-two Cold War veterans would not be eligible.

If adopted, the exemption would create a redistribution of the tax levy to those without the exemption. District Business Manager Richard Mancuso broke it down simply following the meeting.

“Basically what [DiLonardo] is saying is that the veterans who would receive the exemption would increase everybody else’s taxes about 1 percent,” Mancuso said. “So a home that normally pays $3,000 in school taxes would pay an extra $30.”

A public hearing would need to be held before the board could take any action on the exemption, or the board could choose to not act at all. DiLonardo suggested that if it were to consider adopting the exemption, it should do so by Jan. 1 to give the assessor two months to reach out to vets and get applications completed in time.

Two other school districts in Western New York have already adopted the Alternative Veterans Exemption: Gowanda and Attica.

The next Board of Education meeting will take place at 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 17, at Sheridan Hill Elementary, 4560 Boncrest Drive East.

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