Veterans who live in East Rockaway will see some relief on their tax bills in the future after the Board of Education passed a veterans tax exemption last week. School board members in Lynbrook voted down a similar resolution on Feb. 26, sparking indignation among local veterans.
Veterans living in New York have been eligible for state, county, town and village tax exemptions, but in December the State Legislature passed a law giving school boards the option to offer an exemption as well.
Lynbrook board members rejected the resolution in a 6-0 vote, citing a shift in the tax burden from veterans to non-veterans if it were approved. Trustee Cathy Papandrew was not present.
“I have a hard time asking our community to pay more in taxes,” Trustee Ellen Marcus said prior to the vote. “Even though we come within the tax cap and do the best we can, our taxes continue to go up.”
In districts that passed the exemption, the assessed value of veterans’ homes will be reduced, and they will pay less in school taxes. The exemption has three categories, each with its own range by which the assessed value of a home is reduced: wartime veteran in a non-combat zone (up to $12,000), wartime veteran in a combat zone (up to $20,000) and wartime veteran in a combat zone who now has a disability (up to $60,000).
In Lynbrook, the average non-veteran’s school taxes would have increased by $37 per year if the resolution had been approved. A total of 412 veterans live in the district, and more than a dozen attended a March of them 12 board meeting to voice their disapproval of the board’s decision. Board President Alicemarie Bresnihan said that the board voted against the resolution because it did not include a means test — meaning that wealthy veterans would get the same exemption as those on fixed incomes.
Joe Costello, a veteran who has lived in Lynbrook for about 20 years, said the board’s decision shouldn’t have had anything to do with a means test. “It’s about what can we do for these people who made sacrifices for this country,” Costello said. “This is where we were able to put our money where our mouth is in this community, and we didn’t do it. We fell short.”