Gowanda approves veterans exemption

GOWANDA – Veterans in Gowanda will see a bit of a tax break on their school taxes starting next year. The Gowanda Board of Education recently adopted a veterans exemption to take effect for the 2015-2016 school year.

The veterans’ exemption first started in 1984 but was not applicable to school districts until 2013, according to Business Administrator Joelle Woodward. The district held two public hearings to pass the exemption and to reduce the maximum exemption amounts by 50 percent.

Under the veterans’ exemption, there are three categories veterans will fall into: active service during a period of war, active service in a combat zone and service connected disability. For those who served during a period of war, veterans would receive an exemption of 15 percent of the residence assessed value with a maximum reduction of $12,000; veterans who served in a combat zone would receive an exemption of 10 percent of assessed value with a maximum reduction of $8,000; and veterans with a service connected disability would receive an exemption equal to the assessed value times 50 percent of the disability rating with a maximum reduction of $40,000.

A second public hearing was held to discuss a 50 percent reduction for the maximum exemption. For those serving in active service, the exemption would be 7.5 percent with a maximum reduction of $6,000; those who served in a combat zone the exemption is 5 percent of the assessed value with a maximum reduction of $4,000; and those with a service connected disability would receive an exemption equal to the assessed value times 25 percent of disability rating with a maximum reduction of $20,000.

Woodward said if the district were to adopt the maximum exemption about $5.2 million would come off the taxable assessed value based on information given by the town assessors. If the district were to implement the reduced values, the district would have about $2.6 million removed. These figures only apply to veterans who receive the town’s exemptions but there may be more veterans who have not applied.

If a veteran already receives an exemption for the town they reside in, the exemption would automatically carry over. If a veteran does not currently receive the exemption, the veteran would have to apply through their local town assessor.

“Even though you may not have any school tax due you may very well have a school library tax due,” Woodward said.

Robert Field, senior vice commander for VFW Post 5007 spoke in favor of the maximum exemption. He said Governor Andrew Cuomo is trying to “even the playing field” for veterans who have given so much to their country. Field said many soldiers were paid less than minimum wage and during 1970 he only made $2,007 serving in the miliary.

“I think the maximum benefit should be applied to the veterans. The school will still get the same amount of money to operate on. The veterans would be very grateful that the school board honored them by seeing this through,” Field continued.

The board of education approved the maximum veterans exemption of 15 and 10 percent for active service in a combat zone and active service during a period of war, respectively. Veterans who have a service connected disability will receive a reduction equal to 50 percent of the disability rating times the assessed value. The reduced amounts of 7.5, 5 and 25 percent, respectively, was defeated due to a lack of a motion by the board.

The board of education will revisit the exemption in November 2015 to gauge the impact on the tax roll similar to how the board assesses the aged and disability exemptions. The board of education has the opportunity to change the exemption amounts by resolution.

Comments on this article may be sent to smcdonnell@observertoday.com