Written by Chris Boyle, Rich Forestano and Jill Nossa, OysterBay@antonnews.com Tuesday, 08 April 2014 17:20
Due to what appears to be a colossal error on the part of the Nassau County Assessor’s office, military veterans and Gold Star families will have to wait for their tax break until next year.
Oyster Bay-East Norwich is one of several local school districts that recently approved resolutions extending an exemption to local veterans, even though budgets and Albany’s tax cap make it a tough choice. Chris Van Cott, assistant superintendent for finance, explained that the county initially gave a deadline of March 14, and that the school district did provide the county a certified resolution on that date. “It was our understanding that our veterans would see the exemption reflected in their 2014-2015 tax bills,” Van Cott added.
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 January 8, obtained by the Oyster Bay Enterprise Pilot, says a “resolution must be transmitted to the Nassau County Department of Assessment no later than March 15th, 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. Many school districts were caught by surprise, which the letter seems to recognize: “To my office’s knowledge, all school districts throughout Nassau County passed resolutions ... AFTER Jan. 2,” it does not, however, acknowledge any role the assessor’s office may have played in such a widespread misunderstanding. The assessor’s office declined to address the issue on the record, but did email a copy of the April letter.
“We were notified last week that the exemption will not be applied to tax bills until the 2015-16 school year since the ‘opt in’ was after the statewide taxable status date of January 2,” Van Cott noted. “This is in direct contrast to what districts were originally informed.”
The veterans school tax bill offers three tiers of income exemption: $12,000 for all eligible recipients, 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. Exemptions would be available for residents whose children were killed while in military service (known as “Gold Star Parents”) as well.
Gounaris noted that the veterans exemptions will now take effect starting the 2015-2016 school year.