Written by Chris Boyle Wednesday, 19 March 2014 00:00
The Herricks School District Board of Education has unanimously voted to provide school tax exemptions for local veterans of the United States military.
At a public meeting held on March 12, just three days shy of the deadline school districts had to either approve the exemption for the 2014-15 school year or defer to next year, Board President James Gounaris said that backing the bill was the right thing.
“The Herricks Board of Education approves a resolution to extend the new veterans exemptions to qualified Herricks homeowners, according to the statute,” he said. “We salute and offer our gratitude for their service to our country and with a deep sense of pride voted in favor of the tax accommodation.”
The veteran school tax exemptions are broken down into three tiers, each offering different levels of tax discounts: $12,000 for all eligible recipients of the exemption, with an additional $8,000 for all veterans who served in a “combat zone” and an additional $40,000 for all veterans who suffered a “service connected” disability. In addition, exemptions would be available for residents whose children were killed while in military service (known as “Gold Star Parents”).
While school districts are allowed some degree of leeway in the amount of their discounts, Gounaris said that Herricks would be sticking with the default percentages outlined in the original bill proposed by New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo.
“We are adopting the amounts that the state put in the statute,” he said. “We could go lower or higher, but we’re using their figures because that seems to be what everyone is doing.”
Gounaris noted that there would be an increase in school taxes for non-veteran Herricks residents to cover the costs associated with the exemption. The the average increase to homeowners would be about $25.
The Board of Education had initially voted to table their participation in exemption program due to several issues; among them not being allowed to opt-out of the program. However, Gounaris said that the board’s fears as they pertain to this matter were assuaged after a discussion with local elected officials.
“We appeared to be the only municipality omitted from having the ability to opt-out, but we spoke with Senator Jack Martins and Assemblywoman Michelle Schimel, and they were already aware of the problem,” he said. “We’re confident that it was an oversight and that it will be corrected, but our conversations were frank and candid and they were in agreement with out concerns, so we decided it was worth opting-in.”
The other issue that had Herricks on the fence regarding the tax exemption was a lack of confidence in the validity of the eligibility information provided by the Nassau County Assessor’s office. However, Gounaris and board trustees decided that they would go forward and simply handle any problems that may arise in the future.
“Those issues are shared by every district in Nassau County, and we are no different,” he said. “If we run into any issues...if people aren’t being included that are eligible, or if people are receiving the discount that are not, we’ll have to take matters into our own hands and straighten out the situation.”