The East Quogue Board of Education passed a resolution Tuesday night that will give wartime veterans a break on their school taxes—a courtesy that, in turn, will cost the average district taxpayer about an extra $50 per year.
East Quogue is the latest school district to ratify a new state law that allows them to give the same tax breaks that veterans have been receiving from municipalities since 1984.
The board voted to enact the law unanimously during its monthly meeting after hearing several veterans state their case during a public hearing held earlier in the evening. Although some individuals raised questions about the specifics of the exemption, none opposed it.
“I’d like to pose that the veterans, as we know, are an important part of this country and to not give them a benefit like this would be a disservice,” East Quogue resident and Vietnam veteran Bob Holley said during the meeting. “I’m here urging that you vote yes on this. There are a lot of veterans, a lot of young ones who just got out of the service and older ones who served in World War II, and a lot people are on fixed incomes and could use that [break].”
The exemption provides a 15-percent reduction on the assessed value of primary residences of veterans who served during a time of war, and includes those who served during World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, or the ongoing Persian Gulf Conflict, the latter of which has been ongoing since August 2, 1990. Those who served in actual war zones, or received expeditionary medals, are eligible for an additional 10-percent reduction. Veterans with disabilities incurred during their service also qualify for additional reduction in assessed value. The reduction also can be used by the spouses of veterans, as well as the spouses of those who died in combat and never remarried.
East Quogue has the largest number of veterans among all the school districts in Southampton Town with 285, East Quogue School Superintendent Les Black said during Tuesday’s hearing. If all the eligible veterans receive the largest reduction available to them, the district will lose about $164,000 in total assessed value starting with the next school year, according to data compiled by the Southampton Town assessor’s office.
The reduction in assessed value will not impact the amount of money the school district will collect in taxes for the coming school year; however, the amount that each non-veteran taxpayer contributes will increase to make up the difference. The average homeowner whose home is assessed at $500,000 can expect to pay between $46 and $50 more next year in school property taxes due to the exemption.
“There are a lot people on fixed incomes and there also are a lot of veterans on fixed incomes, and every dollar we can save is very, very beneficial and very much appreciated,” East Quogue resident and Vietnam veteran John Barron said. “I think it’s a small token to veterans for the services they do for their country.”
The school district also gives a 10-percent reduction in assessed value to volunteers of the East Quogue Fire Department.
East Quogue resident Cyndi McNamara said she supports aiding veterans because both her father and grandfather served in the military. Still, she wishes the exemptions were based on income rather than property value, to make sure that the people who need the most help are getting it.
“I have the utmost respect for veterans, but there are a lot of seniors out there that are struggling, too, and the senior exemptions are all income based,” Ms. McNamara said.
East Quogue joins the Tuckahoe and Westhampton Beach districts in passing similar resolutions prior to the state’s March 1 deadline.