Share this article

print logo

Editorial: Albany should pay the costs of tax breaks for veterans who served in wartime

It is worth saying again that veterans who have come forward to defend this country deserve a break.

If we want to thank the brave men and women who have fought in the Vietnam, Korean and Iraq and Afghanistan wars, there are many ways to accomplish that goal.

A long time ago, the GI Bill meant that many veterans and their generation were able to get an education, buy a house and raise a family. Since then there have been a number of benefits aimed toward veterans, including the post-9/11 GI Bill.

All are well-deserved, whether for combat or noncombat veterans who served this country.

There is a different story when it comes to pressuring school districts for tax breaks that would be shouldered by the rest of the community. This is an unfunded mandate dumped on local school boards for which Albany should take responsibility.

The issue is legislation signed into law by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo a few years ago that allows districts to offer property tax exemptions to veterans who served during wartime.

The problem is how the Legislature decided to offer the tax breaks, leaving school districts twisting in the fiscal wind. If state lawmakers want to offer this tax break, they should reimburse districts for the lost revenue, just like the process with the STAR property tax exemptions.

It should be noted that veterans already receive some property tax breaks from the county. School boards and citizens are in the awkward position of explaining that district tax breaks could create significant revenue losses. District after district is finding itself balancing the needs of the few versus those of the many.

The latest example involves the Frontier School District. Veterans want citizens to be able to decide in May if the district should follow others and offer a veterans tax exemption.

As in other cases, fellow taxpayers would have to close any hole left by the break. Properties owned by veterans in the district equate to $33 million of assessed valuation, and an exemption in that amount would result in an extra 2.5 percent in taxes on the remaining property owners, according to the board president.

The board was unhappy at the position the state put school boards in, turning down veterans or enacting an exemption, which then means other taxpayers have to pay more.

Albany needs to rethink the burden it imposed on local school boards. If this program is worth doing, then the state should do it.

There are no comments - be the first to comment