Neighboring Districts Go Opposite Directions On Veterans Exemption

Residents who qualify for the Alternative Veterans Exemption within the Southwestern Central School District will be receiving a break on their school tax payment for the 2014-15 school year.

On Tuesday, the Board of Education adopted a resolution that would allow resident veterans of the district to receive a partial tax exemption based on the level of military service provided during times of conflict.Under an amendment signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in December, New York schools have been granted the authority to implement the Alternative Veterans’ Exemption which is also currently provided by the city of Jamestown and Chautauqua County. There are three levels of exemptions: for those in active duty during time of war, for veterans who served in combat zones and for individuals sustaining service-related injuries.

Each exemption is assigned a specific benefit amount under the basic exemption. Active duty exemption is 15 percent of the assessed value, not to exceed $12,000; combat zone exemption is 10 percent of the assessed value, not to exceed $8,000; service-related injury exemption is 50 percent of the veteran’s disability rating, not to exceed $40,000. The maximum exemption is 75 percent, not to exceed $60,000.

The amendment also allows districts to adopt an alternate exemption in lieu of the basic exemption, the rates of which are essentially half the amounts listed in the basic exemption. Under the alternate exemption: the active duty exemption will be 15 percent of the assessed value, not to exceed $6,000; the combat zone exemption will be 10 percent of the assessed value, not to exceed $4,000; and qualifying residential property owned by a veteran who has received compensation for a service-related injury will be exempt from taxation to the extent of the product of the assessed value of the property multiplied by 50 percent of the veteran’s disability rating, not to exceed $20,000.

According to Maureen Donahue, Southwestern superintendent, the district was required to pass a resolution adopting the basic exemption in order to achieve the desired rates offered by the alternate exemption – which required a separate resolution. She said the rates adopted by the school board under the alternate exemption are consistent with the village, city and county rates currently being offered.

“Our board approved the alternate maximum (exemption rate), so we matched the rate offered by the village, city and county,” Donahue said. “If you are a veteran and currently get that exemption, you will not need to apply; however, I would still be in contact with the town assessor’s office.”

The exemption offered to eligible recipients will cause a shift in the district’s tax burden to taxpayers who do not qualify.

“The tax rate will shift, but won’t increase,” Donahue said.

Donahue said the estimated impact the exemption will have on the district tax rate is 17 cents per $1,000 assessed value. This equals a tax rate increase of approximately $11.90 for a house assessed at $100,000 that also receives a $30,000 basic STAR exemption.

The Alternative Veterans’ Exemption will not have an impact on the tax levy.