ICC eyes veterans tax break

VALATIE–The Ichabod Crane School Board held a public hearing this week on property tax exemptions for veterans. The audience, which included many veterans, spoke in support of the exemption, though some audience members asked about the impact the exemption would have on other taxpayers in the district.

District Business Manager Michael Brennan presented the numbers he’d received from the county about the impact on the district, which spans seven towns and two counties. He told the audience at the November 18 meeting that there are 652 veterans who would be eligible for the some kind exemption in the district, with the highest concentration in the Town of Kinderhook, which has 411 veterans.

The exemption, which is already part of state tax law, has existed for several years in different towns and the county, Mr. Brennan said. And there are levels of exemption depending on when the veteran served. There are different percentages for wartime, combat zone and disability exemptions, which also includes different time periods. World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam and the Persian Gulf Conflict veterans all qualify. The dates for Persian Gulf Conflict span from August 2, 1990 to the present. Living spouses, who have not remarried, are eligible. The exemption does not apply to Cold War veterans.

Mr. Brennan said that the exemptions are not based on income or need, and the district is not reimbursed by the state, unlike the STAR exemption. In his presentation, Mr. Brennan said the impact on the assessed property values in district would be around $49 million. “The $49,192,238 is subtracted from the overall assessed value, which in turn will result in a lower school taxable value,” read a slide from his PowerPoint presentation. Mr. Brennan said that the $49 million is 4% of the total assessed property value in the district.

He said the increase in tax rate for other residents in the district would “range from 3% to 22%.” Though he said the average is an 8.8% increase.

Germantown is the only school in the district that has adopted the exemption, though other municipalities have adopted some of the exemptions. Mr. Brennan said that other school districts in the county are also debating the issue. The deadline for district to pass a resolution to adopt an exemption is March 1.

Schools Superintendent George Zini said the board will review the information presented but would not make any decisions Tuesday’s meeting. He did say that he was not happy about the way the governor had expanded the exemption. “It pits community members against community members and it shouldn’t,” he said of shifting some of the burden to other taxpayers.

Dave Kolb, a Kinderhook resident and veteran who spoke during the public comment section of the meeting, said that he understood the board had hard decision to make. “Maybe there’s a way the burden can be softened,” he said. Mr. Brennan said that Germantown has passed the exemption at a reduced level.

Another resident, who thanked the veterans for their service, talked about the increase in his taxes if the exemption passes. He asked if the board had looked at ways to reduce the budget to offset the increase. Mr. Zini pointed out the budgets that have passed in the last few years came with very small tax rate increases and that the board was always looking for ways to keep the budget increases low while maintaining programming.

Other veterans at meeting talked about helping younger veterans buy houses in the district with the exemptions. “It would be a good thing to help our young veterans as well as our older vets,” said Gary Flaherty, the director of county Veterans Service Agency.

One Iraq war veteran who spoke, Chris Delany, echoed Mr. Flaherty’s comments, saying he moved to the district after his service when he was looking for a good school district and a good place to raise his family. He also talked about the high suicide rates among younger veterans and the difficultly of coming back to civilian life. “Something like this will help,” he told the board.

“We need to talk about options,” said Board President Anthony Welcome of the exemptions.

Information about the exemption and Mr. Brennan’s presentation is the district’s website at www.ichabodcrane.org.

The next board meeting will be Tuesday, December 2 at 7 p.m.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email .

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