Taconic Hills OKs tax break for wartime veterans

CRARYVILLE—The Taconic Hills Board of Education board has unanimously authorized an Alternative Veterans’ Exemption.

The exemption, which was approved at the January 21 school board meeting, allows veterans who served during wartime to pay 15% less on their property taxes, up to $12,000. Veterans who served during combat can deduct an additional 10%, up to $8,000 more. And veterans with service-related disabilities can deduct up to $40,000.

Board President Kevin Maisenbacher noted that even though this year’s total tax levy was exactly the same as last year’s some people’s individual taxes may go up as a result of the exemptions.

The board also discussed the possibility of changing voting hours for the annual budget vote. The current hours are noon to 9 p.m. The minimum requirement is that the polls be open for six consecutive hours, with at least two hours after 6 p.m.

The discussion hinged on the low and dropping turnout for budget votes. Last year, only 367 people voted out of about 10,000 eligible voters. Attendance has decreased in each of the last three years.

Some members of the board voiced support for extending hours in hopes of increasing turnout, although that results in higher costs. Other members of the board supported shortening voting hours based on the extremely low turnouts in recent years, saying that keeping the polls open for nine hours would be a waste of money.

The board left the question open for further discussion, as the budget will not go before voters until May 19.

Board Members Nadine Gazzola and Christine Perry, as well as Mr. Maisenbacher, were elected to the budget committee.

Superintendent Neil L. Howard, Jr. discussed the possibility of reducing the number of pre-K and 3rd grade sections from five to four, based on projected enrollment. “Nothing is set in stone,” Dr. Howard said, and no decision was made.

Next year, the high school is expected to have about 60 fewer students than this year. Dr. Howard said that there “may be some downsizing, but we may still need some [more] people in special ed.”

Board President Maisenbacher asked whether there is a “possibility of moving people into a different role” if they are certified. Dr. Howard said that is a possibility.

In other business this week:

  • Director of Pupil Personnel Jack Costello discussed the school’s performance on Indicator Four, a state standard—put in place by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004—for the number of students with disabilities suspended for more than 10 days in a school year relative to the full population of students. This measurement is also broken down by race and ethnicity. Mr. Costello said that the school “dinged” on this indicator. But Mr. Costello said that when the numbers of students in the population of disabled students, as broken down by race and ethnicity, are so low, anything above one student suspended for over 10 days puts Taconic Hills above the limit
  • The board voted to extend Dr. Howard’s contract until December 31, 2019
  • Elementary School Principal John Gulisane made a call for people to donate children’s books to the Books on Wheels book drive.
  • Director of Transportation Richard Viebrock said that there have been problems with the new bus radio system but anticipated that these would be fixed in the near future, making the bus radio system fully digital
  • The Booster Club will offer a women’s self defense course January 31
  • Taconic Hills will be participating in the All-County Jazz Fest in New Lebanon
  • The board discussed the departure of board member Robert Piper. Two people have expressed interest in filling the vacant seat for the remainder of the term. The board also noted that the Policy Committee will need another member—but the new member need not be a member of the board. The board invited members of the community or staff to apply for the position.


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