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Tuesday, October 21, 2014
COMMUNITY NEWS
School board postpones vets’ tax break vote
Officials: Vote will take place Sept. 9
Brian Racow/Herald Life
James O’Neill, a Vietnam War veteran and second vice commander of the Merrick American Legion, spoke this spring at a Merrick Board of Education meeting. The board has postponed a vote on veterans’ tax exemptions to Sept. 9.

Merrick School District trustees said in May that they would put tax breaks for community veterans to a vote on Aug. 12, but they have postponed the vote another 28 days to Sept. 9.

Earlier this year the North Merrick, Bellmore and North Bellmore school districts’ boards passed veterans tax exemptions, making Merrick the only one of the Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District’s four component elementary districts not to do so. After groups of local veterans attended several consecutive Merrick Board of Education meetings throughout the spring, arguing that they had earned tax exemptions for their service to the country and that offsetting increases to non-veterans’ taxes would be marginal, Merrick board members promised on May 13 that they would give the exemptions an up-or-down vote at their Aug. 12 meeting.

But Merrick Superintendent Dominick Palma said after that meeting that the board had decided to delay the vote until Sept. 9 because meetings it holds in August typically suffer from low public attendance. Nine people comprised the audience at the Aug. 12 meeting, including three district employees, one reporter, four men wearing veterans’ insignia and one other member of the public.

Though the meeting had concluded, district officials remained seated at the dais and addressed the four veterans, all members of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1310 of Merrick and Freeport, who said no one had informed them that the board planned to postpone the vote.

Board Vice President Gina Piskin, who was president of the board in 2013-14, said she visited Merrick American Legion Post No. 1282 to inform legionnaires that the vote would not take place until Sept. 9. But it quickly became clear neither the school district nor the legion told the VFW.

“It’s bad communication,” said Paul Zydor, commander of Post 1310. “I cancelled tonight’s post meeting to be here.”

Butch Yamali, this year’s board president, apologized to Zydor and the other three veterans. “I’m sorry,” Yamali said. “We thought we did the right thing. We’re sorry.”

Correction:
The print version of this article, which appeared on page 8 of the August 21-27 Merrick Herald Life, incorrectly stated the date of the next Merrick Board of Education meeting. It will take place on Sept. 9, not Sept. 3. We regret the error.

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