TH plans lead abatement, eyes tax breaks for more vets

CRARYVILLE–The Taconic Hills School District Board of Education has voted unanimously to allot $15,000 to of remediation of lead in its water sources. Director of Facilities Nicholas Smith reported at the November 16 school board meeting that the state Department of Health is requiring the district to replace all 55 lab and bathroom faucets that tested positive for unacceptable lead levels even though those water sources are not intended for drinking.

Mr. Smith also said that the health department would not accept warning signs as a permanent solution. The faucets will cost a total of $11,830 and will have to be retested once installed at a cost of $350.

Also at last week’s meeting the board asked Business Manager Cybil Howard “to look at” the Cold War Veterans Exemption, which extends participation to school districts. The law entitles veterans from that era to exempt up to 20% of the taxable assessment value of their residential property. It was signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo in August. Previous legislation limited the exemptions to state, town and county property taxes.

Ms. Howard told the board that, currently, there are 41 such exemptions in Columbia County at a value of $512, 905. The county sets a 15% exemption limit. The state offers a maximum 20%. She offered an example: if a veteran receives the maximum exemption, its value is $12,000 or $40,000 if disabled. She estimated that the exemptions would result in a less than $1 increase for non-exempt taxpayers.

March 2017 is the deadline for school district to register the exemption offer with the state Education Department, and Ms. Howard outlined the three-step process involved: the board must draft a resolution for the board meeting next month, schedule a public hearing later in December and inform the assessors of the towns in the district. The exemption would be applicable to the 2017-18 school year tax bill.

In other business November 16:

• Ms. Howard reported that the district has not resolved an issue regarding transportation aid, valued at almost $300,000, with Education Department. The district contracts out one-third of its transportation costs to Johnston, a company in Philmont, but the state lost the contracts for the 2014-15 school year and the district cannot produce copies of those agreements because they were lost during a break-in and theft in August

• Tax Collector Vonda Teaney reported that $20,021,921 was collected for the 2016-17 tax year. The default rate is 8.47%. Out of 9,180 parcels, taxes have not been collected on 778 parcels at a cost of $1.7 million, penalties included

• Computer Technology Coordinator John Dodds presented an update on the Smart Schools Investment Plan, a $2-billion project to advance sustainable technology and infrastructure, signed by Gov. Cuomo two years ago. The district’s share is $918,000.

Mr. Dodd outlined three priorities for the next phase: improved connectivity–although the entire campus is served by a wireless network, signal strength is uneven; expanding classroom technology–only grades 6 through 10 can access a personal laptop, representing 40% of students; high tech security features–upgrading surveillance cameras to read license plates at the entrances to the elementary and junior/senior high buildings.

The next Board of Education meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, December 21 at 6:30 p.m. in the Board of Education Room at the Craryville campus.

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