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East Aurora School District approves veterans’ exemption

Veterans who live in the East Aurora School District can now apply for tax exemptions since the School Board unanimously approved the measure minutes after the conclusion of a public hearing Wednesday night.

“We’ve been discussing it at the board level for the last 18 to 24 months,” School Superintendent Brian D. Russ said.

He said the board was approached by veterans several months ago to consider making such a move, and “out of respect and gratitude,” have been considering the change. However, Russ also acknowledged that it was not an easy decision to make because the district had to figure out what impact the potential of shifting taxes could have on taxpayers.

According to Russ, if all 686 veterans who live in the district were to apply for the tax exemption, then it would impact $4,788,570 on the assessed value – which amounts to just under 1 percent of the total tax levy.

Based on that, if every veteran were to apply, other property owners in the Town of Aurora would see an increase of $36 in their tax bill on a house with an assessed value of $100,000.

However, Tom Ricci, commander of American Legion Post 362, told the board that he does not believe many veterans in the community will apply for it.

“I am one of the people who will not be applying for it,” Ricci said, noting that his finances are stable and he has no intentions of not paying taxes.

As commander of the post, he said he wanted to speak on behalf of those who do need it. He also expressed his gratitude toward the board and the community for their support.

“The community has been appreciative of veterans,” Ricci said.

Another retired veteran, Liz Raleigh, echoed Ricci’s sentiments.

“I hope it does get in place for those who truly need it,” she said, adding that she also has no intentions of applying because she is not in need of a break.

Tom Coffey, a Vietnam War veteran, said while he understands the concerns about the shift of the tax burden, as a veteran he can not equate dollars and cents to having to put your life on the line.

During a lengthy discussion at a meeting in August, the board members decided to move forward with the Level A exemption, which means that wartime veterans would get a $12,000 exemption from their full value taxation; combat veterans would get a $20,000 exemption, and disabled veterans would get a $40,000 exemption.