‘In recognition of their service'

State bill would exempt active-duty military from some property taxes

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State Sen. John Brooks joined Town of Hempstead Supervisor Laura Gillen last week to outline a proposal that would give certain active-duty service personnel a break from property taxes.

Speaking on April 11 at the American Legion Post 1273 in Wantagh, Brooks, a Seaford Democrat, described the provisions of his proposal, S2930A, that would grant military personnel serving in combat zones exemptions of as much as $12,000 in property taxes.

Brooks’s measure would provide for exemptions of as much as 15 percent of the assessed value of their residential property, not to exceed $12,000, according to the bill’s summary. The proposal, written and sponsored by Brooks, is the most recent version of a bill that was first introduced in 2012. It would provide for exemptions similar to those currently enjoyed by veterans.

Brooks noted that today’s military members are all volunteers. “These people have stepped up on their own to serve this nation,” he said. “It’s critical that we extend to the active-duty personnel the same benefits that we’ve provided to those who have served.”

Active-duty members of the United States military do not currently qualify for the same property tax exemptions afforded to veterans, according to Brooks. “This bill recognizes that those who volunteer to serve our country should be afforded benefits in recognition of their service and willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice for their country,” Brooks wrote in a bill memorandum.

New York has nearly 30,000 reserve troops and more than 20,000 active-duty military personnel, Gillen said when she appeared with Brooks at last week’s event. “Long Island has the second-largest veteran population in the entire United States, with hundreds of residents living right here within the Town of Hempstead,” she said.

Brooks’s measure “would allow any municipality to adopt tax exemptions for active-duty personnel,” according to a news release from Brooks’s office. Additionally, the bill would also allow any service members currently deployed in combat zones to receive additional exemptions.

“It’s time for us to start fighting for those who are right now here, and abroad, fighting for us in the United States,” Gillen said.

In January, Gillen sent a letter to her colleagues at the state level, asking them to alleviate the stress and anxiety that property taxes create for active-duty servicemen and women. “It’s time for us to protect our active-duty service members by easing their financial tax burden,” she said, “and make sure we are doing our part to ensure their security at home, so they can ensure ours abroad.”

The bill will be voted on in the coming weeks in the Veterans Committee, Brooks said. If passed, it will take effect in January 2020.

The measure would also allow an additional 10 percent property-tax exemption, or $8,000, of the assessed value of a home for active-duty military currently serving in combat zones, or within one year of returning home. Those who apply for the exemptions would need to renew their applications annually.

The bill would not apply to school taxes or active-duty service members outside New York, and it would not allow the stacking of other property tax exemptions under this bill, according to the summary.

Army Sgt. 1st Class Enrique Reyna, of East Meadow, said he has been in the Army for more then 25 years and is about to retire from active duty in July. “I always hear that people are fighting for us,” he said. “Being able to be part of this and actually seeing it happen is unbelievable.”

Wes Webb, a veteran who left the Army as a major after 10 years of active duty, said it is stressful for military members to be in a combat environment while they are separated from their families. “Anytime that we can take any measure as a government to relieve some of the stress in the form of tax relief, it certainly helps those who are deployed,” Webb, of Massapequa Park, said.

Town of Hempstead Veterans Service Officer Rick Gales, of Elmont, said that military personnel should know they are supported. “We want those people to know that we are behind them,” Gales said.