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St. Lawrence Central School discusses veterans school tax exemption

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BRASHER FALLS — While a new military veterans exemption on school taxes is admirable, it would be even better if it didn’t shift the burden to non-veteran taxpayers, St. Lawrence Central School Superintendent Stephan J. Vigliotti Sr. said.

“I think it’s a great concept except at the expense of everyone else. I think that’s a tough sell,” Mr. Vigliotti told Board of Education members this week.

The veterans exemption would be applied first to an eligible resident’s property, followed by the STAR tax exemption. However, unlike the STAR exemption, the brunt of the veterans exemption would be shifted to other district taxpayers.

For example, if a veteran owns a property assessed at $60,000 and receives the enhanced STAR tax exemption, he or she would have paid no school taxes. That money, instead, would come from the state. By applying the veterans exemption first, the burden would be shifted to other taxpayers before the state picks up the remainder of the STAR exemption costs.

“This scenario is kind of a cost shifting from veteran taxpayers to non-veteran taxpayers,” Mr. Vigliotti said.

He said, based on the district’s current tax levies, approximately 2.22 percent of the total levy would have to be reapportioned to non-veteran taxpayers.

“It’s advantageous to the state. The state saves money,” Mr. Vigliotti said.

The exemptions include 15 percent reductions in assessed value for veterans who served during a time of war, another 10 percent for those who were in combat zones and an additional reduction for service-connected disabilities.

While veterans already have qualified for partial exemptions on municipal property taxes, that hasn’t applied to school taxes until now. The new law leaves the decision on whether to grant the exemption up to school districts.

“To my knowledge, Clifton-Fine is the only one to move forward,” Mr. Vigliotti said.

New York State School Boards Association officials have suggested that boards looks at the tax base to see how it will affect their tax rates. If schools decide they want to consider the exemption, they said, community members should be involved in the process so they know exactly how it will affect the district’s tax base. Boards are required to hold a public hearing before adopting the exemption.

However, like Mr. Vigliotti, they said their concern is the shifting of the costs onto other local taxpayers at a time when many financially are struggling.

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