Trustees of the Merrick School District discussed granting recently enacted school tax exemptions for qualifying veterans, but they were hesitant to do so, according to Board President Gina Piskin and Merrick Superintendent Dr. Dominick Palma, who cited concerns about the exemptions’ cost to non-veteran homeowners and their apparent irrevocability. The board has now missed a Feb. 28 deadline to approve the veterans tax exemption.
Veterans living in New York have for years been eligible for state, county, town and village tax exemptions. In December, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law a bill giving school boards the option to offer an exemption as well.
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 (by 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).
The exemptions impose some cost to non-veteran households, which must make up the difference in districts’ total property-tax levies. Palma also said the new state law contained an “error,” making it so that school boards could not rescind the exemptions in future years, a discretion that other municipalities have.
The North Merrick, Bellmore and North Bellmore school districts’ boards all passed tax exemptions for veterans this year, making Merrick the only one of the Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District’s four component districts not to do so.
The North Merrick School District Board of Education passed the exemption 5-0, with two trustees recusing themselves because they would stand to benefit from it. The district estimated that 470 households in the district could claim the exemption, and that the measure would cost about $45 per non-veteran household.
Dr. Christine Grucci, assistant superintendent for business of the Merrick School District, declined to state how much the exemption would affect non-veteran households in the district.