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Veterans’ tax exemption supported in Orchard Park

One Orchard Park School Board member after another spoke in favor of approving a tax exemption at next month’s meeting after listening to veterans speak passionately about the social justice of the discount.

“I’m on my third type of cancer. This one’s terminal,” said Ron Guido, speaking of his service during the Vietnam War and his exposure to Agent Orange at a public hearing Tuesday.

“We have paid the price and are paying the price for the rest of our lives,” he said to applause.

Of the crowd in the Middle School auditorium, about 40 stood in support after about a dozen veterans took turns speaking at the microphone about the new state exemption that school districts can adopt after choosing from a series of rate options.

While board members complained about the state approach that leads discounts to vary between districts, most everyone seemed to favor the measure.

“I think our veterans should be honored and have all of their needs met,” said board member Elizabeth Quinlan. “This is only a small token. It’s not enough for these people who are really suffering.”

Board member Karen Kane explained her criticism of the exemption’s design this way: “It ends up being a very inconsistent way of showing appreciation for vets.”

The board agreed to vote after holding another public hearing about what exemption rate to choose at its next meeting Oct. 13.

Before the Tuesday evening public hearing, an official from the Erie County Real Property Tax Services office gave a PowerPoint presentation outlining the program’s complicated series of options. In one example, a veteran could save $168 on a tax bill for a house valued at $100,000. Fellow residents would defray the cost by paying about $16 extra.

The extra cost to nonveterans seemed minor to the veterans at the meeting.

“I find it very hard to compare tax dollars with what’s been sacrificed,” said Ken Harris, who spoke after Guido. “Would you give that much to keep your child out of combat for a week?”