Hoping to help local veterans as much as possible, Tuckahoe has become the first school district on the East End to locally adopt a bill to allow partial exemptions on school property taxes based on military service.
The measure, which was approved in Tuckahoe following a public hearing on January 27, is an amendment to the New York State Property Tax Law, which allows for military discounts on municipal taxes. The code previously did not include school property taxes, but, in an effort to reduce the number of struggling and even homeless veterans, the Senate voted in December to allow school districts to participate.
Now, Tuckahoe is leading the charge in school districts opting to participate in the program, with board members Bob Grisnik and Dr. Daniel Crough approving the measure. The third board member, Harald Steudte, did not attend the meeting.
“I for one feel that we would not have what we have in this country if it wasn’t for the veterans,” Mr. Grisnik, a former U.S. Air Force pilot and Vietnam veteran, said. “They gave up their time, they served our country, and some of them were wounded, or came home with disabilities. Others gave their life for us to have what we have here in the United States. I think they deserve this exemption.”
Several East End school districts, including Sag Harbor and Hampton Bays, confirmed that their respective boards will be considering the initiative, but said they had no other information.
According to the justification attached to the bill, which was provided by Senator Kenneth P. LaValle’s office, the amendment serves to help veterans in any way possible.
“Currently, New York State property tax laws provide partial property tax exemptions to qualified veterans of the United States military,” the justification reads. “Unfortunately, this exemption is not applicable to school taxes. … Given the incredible sacrifices made by our military personnel, it is only fitting that we extend the veteran’s property tax credits to school taxes.”
At last week’s meeting, District Superintendent Chris Dyer, a retired Army colonel, explained that 534 Tuckahoe residents, or 139 households, qualify for the exemption, which will total approximately $70,000 in Tuckahoe. That money will equate to roughly $474 per veteran, depending on their level of service, and will be made up by the rest of the Tuckahoe taxpayers.
“Even though this is going to affect the taxes of our other taxpayers in the school district,” Mr. Grisnik said, “I would assume that everyone would feel the way I do, or I would hope they do anyway, in giving this exemption to the veterans.”
No one from the public addressed the board during the brief public hearing.
At the meeting, Dr. Crough said he was happy to approve the incentive for veterans, adding that it is a way for those who have not served in the military to give back.
“Each of us owes a debt of service to our nation and this way, those who have not served in the military can serve those who have,” he said. “We can sacrifice that way.”