County adopts vets’ tax break, hires opioid panel aide

HUDSON–Property taxes and opioid abuse were among the matters taken up at the Columbia County Board of Supervisors full board meeting Wednesday, March 8.

The board voted to increase the maximum exemption on county property taxes available to veterans and Gold Star Parents for the entire County. Under the new law qualifying veterans are allowed to subtract a certain amount from the assessed value of their property and calculate their property taxes using the reduced value.

Those qualifying as Combat Zone Veterans may deduct $24,000 from their property’s value, those qualifying as Wartime Veterans may deduct $36,000, and those qualifying as Disabled Veterans may deduct 50% of their disability rating up to a maximum of $120,000. Gold Star Parents, that is, parents “of a child who died in the line of duty while serving the United States armed forces during a period of war,” are eligible for the same exemption that their deceased child would have received.

The meeting began with a public hearing to discuss the new law, but nobody from the community spoke. The measure passed with one abstention and all the other supervisors voting for it.

“It’s a very strong statement that the people of Columbia County support our veterans,” said Supervisor Maria Lull (R-Chatham). “How do you attract a volunteer army?”

“I don’t think we’re doing enough nationwide, let alone locally,” said Supervisor William Hughes (D-Hudson, 4th Ward). “This [new law] at least does something.”

Gary Flaherty, executive director of the county Veterans’ Service Bureau, said that he wanted to “emphasize that as veterans we appreciate the help we get from our county supervisors.”

On another issue, Supervisor Matt Murell (R-Stockport), chairman of the Board of Supervisors, announced the appointment of Keith Stack, former supervisor of Kinderhook, as legislative aide to the Opioid Crisis Response Task Force, which Mr. Murell he formed at the beginning of the year to address the nationwide opioid abuse crisis pro-actively. Mr. Stack is CEO of the Addictions Care Center of Albany and has already participated in task force work. Mr. Murell said Mr. Stack would “not replace but enhance” what the Task Force is already doing and said Mr. Stack’s appointment is intended “to double down and show we’re serious about addressing the opioid abuse crisis.”

Later by phone Mr. Murell indicated that the County is paying Mr. Stack $10,000 for his services to the Task Force this year. (A story on the most recent meeting of the county Opioid Crisis Response Task Force appears elsewhere in this issue.)

Also at the March 8 meeting the board authorized Public Defender Robert Linville to apply to the state Indigent Legal Services for a grant to for two staff attorneys to serve as “counsel at first appearance” for people who face a judge for the first time after their arrest between the hours of 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. The grant, if awarded would fund each attorney to “work five nights on and five nights off throughout the month.” While awaiting calls summoning them to court because of nighttime arrests, the night duty attorney would be stationed in the office of the public defender working] on “legal defense documents.”

Later by phone Mr. Linville said that his goal was that every defendant “have a lawyer every time he or she is brought before a judge,” including arraignment.

The next meeting of the full county Board of Supervisors will be Wednesday, April 12, at 7:30 p.m. at 401 State Street.

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