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County Assessor Delays Vets Tax Break

Due to what appears to be a colossal error on the part of the Nassau County Assessor’s office, or perhaps an errant interpretation of state law, more than 600 military veterans and Gold Star families in Hicksville will have to wait for their tax break until next year.

Hicksville is one of several local school districts that recently approved resolutions extending the exemption to local veterans, even though budgets and Albany’s tax cap make it a tough choice. On Feb. 26, with a contingency of veterans in the audience, the board voted to provide a school tax exemption for veterans living in the district, starting with the 2014-15 school year.

“It was a unanimous decision. We felt like it was in line with the correct thing to do as a board,” said Board trustee Steve Culhane.

On Dec. 18, Gov. Cuomo signed a new law allowing local school districts to extend tax exemptions to U.S. military veterans and some families. Each district was required to pass a resolution to opt in. An email sent from Deputy Assessor Michele D. Wawrzynski to school administrators on Jan. 8, obtained by the Hicksville News, says “resolution must be transmitted to the Nassau County Department of Assessment no later than March 15, 2014, to be effective for the 2014-15 school year.”

A letter from the county signed by Acting Assessor James E. Davis and sent on April 1, however, says that in fact Jan. 2 was the deadline. Although the letter acknowledges that all school districts seem to have been left out in the cold, “To my office’s knowledge, all school districts throughout Nassau County passed resolutions ... After Jan. 2,” it does not acknowledge any role the assessor’s office may have played in such a widespread misunderstanding. The assessor’s office declined to speak on the record, but did email a copy of the April letter.

Hicksville trustees were under the impression that as long as they approved the exemption by March 15, it would take effect for the 2014-15 school year.

“I was under the assumption this would happen next year and would be implemented for next year’s budget,” said Culhane. “There was no indication given to us that it was going to be for the 15-16 school year.”

The veterans bill offers three tiers of income exemption: $12,000 for all eligible recipients, with an additional $8,000 for combat veterans and an additional $40,000 for all veterans who suffered a “service connected” disability. Exemptions would be available for residents whose children were killed while in military service (known as “Gold Star Parents”) as well. The exemption will now take effect starting the 2015-16 school year.

Culhane says he has not yet received any notice about the exemption only taking place next year, but is confident that the community will stand by it whenever it comes into play. Ineligible residents will have a little less than $27 added to their tax bill to supply 1,100 veterans in the community with the exemption.

“I’m confident people in Hicksville would be in support of it,” says Culhane. “I don’t know anyone who would be against it.”