Tonawanda News

Columns

March 5, 2014

Local veterans tax exemptions make for difficult school boards decisions|CONFER: Veterans tax exemptions make for uneasy school boards

Tonawanda News — Following a debate that began as far back as 2006, last year the state Senate finally came to agreement with the Assembly on a bill that allows school districts to extend property tax exemptions to veterans. It was signed into law by Governor Cuomo in late December, a perfect Christmas present for the men and women who were willing to potentially give up their limbs or life for American interests and national defense.

Despite the positive intentions of the bill, the chances are good that you’ll also see a belabored debate about the exemptions in local school districts. Most school boards have already discussed them in detail, likely a little in public and a lot more behind closed doors — and they still don’t have any answers.

In order to meet the parameters of the new state law, school boards would have had to approve local exemptions by this past Saturday to make them available for the 2014-2015 budget year. Only a handful of districts across the state have done that. Most opted instead to delay the decision to a later date.

As simple as one might first think it is to grant the tax breaks (who wouldn’t support a vet?), it’s not. The boards are finding it difficult to balance altruism with fiscal planning, especially since the burden of making up for the lost revenues falls onto the communities, not onto the state as is the case with the long-lived STAR program.

In some cases, it’s not chump change that we’re talking about. Take the Wellsville School District, for example. They have nearly 400 veterans living in the district who would receive some sort of exemption (the state law has 3 levels of breaks). Those exemptions would account for $2.3 million in displaced revenue, which would have to be collected from other Wellsville property owners. With a total budget a smidge over $27 million, those other owners would be looking at an 8.5 percent increase in their property tax bill just to accommodate the veterans’ exemptions — and there would still be the annual, overall spending increase to account for, too!

Text Only
Columns
  • duvall, eric.jpg DUVALL: Conflict in Ukraine now a concern of global proportions It seems increasingly clear Ukrainian separatists, with the help from the Russian military, are responsible for the tragedy. They, of course, have denied it. They've also denied access to the crash site to international investigators seeking to recover the dead and determine what happened. That's not something the innocent party does.

    July 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • ADAMCZYK: Personal development, rendered in steel Accepting the premise that everyone needs to fill the same amount of time every day (24 hours, every day), some people use theirs rebuilding things, tangible things, and thus fulfill a few intangible goals.

    July 18, 2014

  • WALLACE: Festival season is underway Summer is the season of fairs and festivals. From Canal Fest in the Tonawandas to the Allentown Art Festival and Italian Heritage Festival in Buffalo to the Erie County Fair in Hamburg, the Western New York area has no shortage of things to do with the family over the summer.

    July 17, 2014

  • duvall, eric.jpg DUVALL: King George's abdication leaves many questions I've covered Niagara County politics for 10 years and it's been a fascinating -- and often infuriating -- experience. With the news the man known with equal parts respect and cynicism as "King George" is walking away it's about to get more interesting.

    July 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Canal Fest, here we come This column should be titled "Roads and Streets." First of all, Meadow Drive is finally open. Although it took very long to be completed, it's beautiful. Riding by the other day brought into focus how many people will use this to cut across town. One less thing for residents to complain about.

    July 12, 2014

  • ADAMCZYK: Homesick for someplace I've never been You stumble over things that make you wonder. I do, at least, and the latest is one of those advertising artifacts from yesteryear that encourage me to ponder what's changed and what never will.

    July 11, 2014

  • WALLACE: Playing politics as usual The immigration crisis is just the most recent example of how dysfunctional Washington, D.C. is right now.

    July 10, 2014

  • duvall, eric.jpg A stunning scandal in Mississippi-voting|DUVALL: A stunning scandal in Mississippi We don't tend to talk a whole lot about Mississippi on this paper's editorial page and for good reason. It's a long way away in both distance and temperament. But I swear this will be worth it.

    July 9, 2014 1 Photo

  • confer, bob.jpg CONFER: Employers don't need 24/7 access to workers

    July 9, 2014 1 Photo

  • duvall, eric.jpg DUVALL: Taste of Buffalo sneaks up again This time next week you can find me tromping somewhere up and down Delaware Avenue in Buffalo. I'll be there with tens of thousands of my closest friends.

    July 6, 2014 1 Photo