Tax Exemption: Finding Balance

Anyone who has opened their property tax bill likely feels they are paying too much.

What, then, makes one group more deserving of a property tax break than others?

It is an interesting thought to keep in mind as school districts discuss exemptions from school taxes for veterans. There are three tiers available: those who saw active duty during a period of war, veterans who served in combat zones and individuals who have sustained service-related injuries. The first level would entail an exemption of 15 percent of assessed value not to exceed $12,000, the second entails up to 25 percent of assessed value not to exceed $8,000 and the final level allows up to 50 percent of a veterans disability rating not to exceed $40,000; making for a maximum exemption of 75 percent of assessed value not to exceed $60,000. Based on the 2013 tax rates, the exemption would cost Jamestown taxpayers who don’t qualify between $11 and $23 more each year in taxes.

The program isn’t perfect. Veterans who don’t own their home are left out in the cold, and it might have been easier to administer a tax credit program that is income-based.

A perfect program, unfortunately, is not what is up for local discussion.

Should most taxpayers pay a little more in order to grant veterans a small exemption on their taxes? It is often lamented each Veterans Day that not enough is done to help veterans throughout the year. Approving the exemption would certainly be a step in that direction.

School boards can also be fair to non-veterans by examining exemptions at less than the maximum amount. If a reasonable balance can be struck in favor of veterans without harming their fellow taxpayers too badly, districts should approve the exemption.