Hyde Park considering veteran exemptions on school taxes

The Hyde Park school board is considering giving veterans a property tax exemption on their school taxes.

Under state tax department regulations, the alternative veterans’ exemption, one of three available for veterans’ county, town and village taxes, can be applied, as of 2014, to school taxes if a school district chooses to do so.

What the impact on other property owners would be was one of the key points of discussion at the Hyde Park Central School District’s Jan. 23 meeting.

Wayne Kurlander, Superintendent for Business, first briefly described the exemptions:

There are three different categories that can be used to get an exemption on a residential property that is a primary residence: anyone who served in a war gets a 15 percent reduction; anyone who served in a combat zone gets an added 10 percent; and those who were disabled during wartime get an additional credit.

Kurlander also noted that the alternative veterans’ exemption includes an option for the “Gold Star Parents” of someone who was killed while serving in the armed forces.

He is currently working on a presentation on how the various veterans’ tax breaks would affect school taxes in Hyde Park, which he hopes to present at the next school board meeting Feb. 13. The presentation is expected to show the number of eligible veterans in Hyde Park and the estimated cost an added exemption would have on other taxpayers in the school district.

As an example, Kurlander noted that the veterans’ exemption “could be pushed to some groups who historically have had some difficulties,” meaning lower-income taxpayers who are not veterans could face higher property taxes.

Board chairman Douglas Hieter then opened discussion of the issue by stating that he is a disabled veteran, and that he believes anyone who has served during wartime has earned some kind of exemption.

Board member Kevin Sheehan, however, said he wanted to see the numbers and the impact before he votes on the required resolution that would authorize the action.

“I think it’s a marvelous idea,” he said, but added, “it’s almost a no-win situation because it’s ‘I’m gonna do a very nice thing for veterans, but it’s going to be at your expense.’”

“The hard reality is that you are essentially transferring a tax burden from one class of folks to another” he said.

Hieter responded, “No, be very careful when you say ‘I don’t know if it’s worth it,’ because they earned it.”

“Don’t ever misunderstand my feelings for veterans who have served this country,” Sheehan replied.

Then he added, “This is not free money…we all have to pick up the tab.”

Board member Glenn Watson said, “I don’t think it’s up to me to pick and choose who should be exempt. I think it’s something that should be voted on by everyone.”

The board agreed to set a public hearing on the issue for their Feb. 13 meeting at 7pm. Kurlander’s presentation is expected to precede the hearing.

In most communities, veterans must submit an application for a new exemption to the local assessor by March 1.

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