The exemptions, known as the Alternative Veterans’ Exemptions and which were recently approved by lawmakers in Albany, allow school districts and other municipalities across the state to grant tax exemptions to veterans. However, the veterans would have to first forgo any STAR tax exemptions they would qualify for. Only after all the Alternative Veterans’ Exemptions were met, could they apply to see if they would qualify for Star benefits.
School superintendent Tim Mains said that the state does offer reimbursements to the school district for the STAR program, but not the Alternative Veterans’ Exemptions. As a result, he said it would be likely the local tax burden would simply shift to non-veteran taxpayers and that would force the board to have to decide between honoring veterans and being fiscally responsible.
“I think [the board] made the right decision from a financial standpoint,” Mains said. “I understand people may have a different opinion about what our moral obligation are for veterans and certainly, we recognize the sacrifice that veterans have made. When we can find a way to recognize and honor that, it’s a great thing to do, but we’re just not in a position right now to take the risk financially.”
Four local veterans attended Tuesday nights board meeting and spoke in support of the exemptions. After the board announced it would not be acting on the exemptions this year, several veterans said they were disappointed with the decision. However, two of them also said they understood why the school board chose not to act on allowing the exemptions.
City resident and Vietnam veteran Gerald White said, “It would be a great idea if all veterans could benefit from something like this. Plus it’s not being funded by the state so it would be a burden on the local government. And in fairness, we wouldn’t want to put anymore burden on the local government.”
School board president Joe DiMaio said he’d like to try and find a different way to provide tax exemptions for veterans, possibly through income tax exemptions. He’s asking local veterans groups to offer input on how to proceed.
“I would be willing to work with any local veterans group and get together to go to the legislator’s office or write a resolution,” DiMaio said. “And then we’ll see if we can’t come up with something that is fair and equitable.”
School officials also said that there is a possibility they could consider the veterans’ exemptions again at a later time.