Written by Rich Forestano & Daniel Offner Wednesday, 16 April 2014 00:00
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, nearly 2,000 military veterans and Gold Star families in Levittown and Island Trees will have to wait for their tax break until next year.
Both the Levittown and Island Trees school districts are among 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. Earlier this year, trustees in both districts voted unanimously to provide a school tax exemption for veterans living in the district, starting with the 2014-15 school year.
“We all supported it with the intention that it would provide veterans a break on school taxes immediately,” said Island Trees School District Superintendent Dr. Charles Murphy, “not in the 2015-2016 school year.”
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 Levittown Tribune, 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 caught out, “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.
In response to the letter, Murphy said that quite a number of local veterans will be upset to learn the county is not able to make it happen this year.
Levittown was historically built in 1947 as a mass-produced suburb for veterans returning from war. Today, 1,562 eligible veterans live within the Levittown Public School District.
Levittown schools Superintendent Dr. James Grossane declined comment on the County Assessor’s mistake, as of press time.
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.
— Additional Reporting By Chris Boylde