ICC board asks state to absorb tax break for vets

KINDERHOOK–The Ichabod Crane School Board passed a motion this week calling on the governor and the legislature “to reexamine and amend Real Property Tax Law Section 458-a to equitably provide and fund the Alternative Veterans Exemption as applied to School District taxes.”

The board held a public hearing in November about the veterans exemption, which would give qualifying veterans in the school district a break on their school property tax. The exemption has existed on the state and county level for several years, and in 2013 the state extended the exemption to school districts. Each district must decide whether to approval the exemption and at what level.

The motion the school board adopted at its Tuesday, December 2 meeting did not say whether the board will approve the veterans exemption. The board has until March 1 to decide whether the tax exemption would take effect for the 2015-16 school year tax bills.

The motion lays out the problem by stating that “the application of the Alternative Veterans Exemption from school property taxes is not based on the needs of veterans and is not equitably funded, as the exemption would simply result in lower school property taxes for the qualified property owned by veterans and higher the tax rates for properties owned by non-veterans…”

The board is asking the state fund the shift in the tax burden that would affect non-veteran taxpayers if some level of exemption is given to the 652 veterans in the district.

Board member John Chandler agreed with the motion because he didn’t feel the exemption was something that a board of education should be deciding for the community. Board member Cheryl Trefzger echoed Mr. Chandler’s statement, saying, “I don’t think it’s the place for the Board of Education to decide.”

Board President Tony Welcome said that the legislature gave the decision to boards to decide because “they want us to be the good guys or the bad guys.”

Ms. Trefzger stressed that this motion passed to ask the state to reexamine the application of the exemption did not indicate the board had reached a decision on the exemption. “It doesn’t mean we are deciding yay or nay,” she said.

Peter Woodward, a local veteran, said there could be caps on the exemption and in some communities that have adopted the exemption the difference in taxes for properties is $10 to $25 a year. Germantown is the only school district in the county that has adopted the exemption.

Mr. Welcome said during the second public comment section of the meeting that school district Business Administrator Michael Brennan had come up with calculations for the difference in tax rates for non-veterans in the district. “My taxes would go up much more than $25 a year,” he said.

Bob Cramer, another local veteran, said of the exemption, “I don’t think we are asking for a lot.” He was upset with the board for trying to put responsibility for deciding on the exemption back on the state.

“The state gave you the authority to do this and you don’t want to do it,” he told the board.

Superintendent George Zini said the district “feels like this is the responsibility of the state to do.” And he and several board members said that it was not something for the board to decide on. Mr. Chandler also said that other school boards had passed similar motions.

The next regular school board meeting will be Tuesday, January 6 in the High School Library at 7 p.m.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email .  

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