The Oysterponds school board decided Tuesday it needs more information before voting to approve a new veteran tax exemption proposal.
During a public hearing to discuss the legislation, school board president Dorothy-Dean Thomas said she would have no problem voting for an exemption that would give veterans living in the district property tax breaks, but can’t since she believes the rules regarding the exemption “change every day,” making it impossible for the board to know what it would be voting for.
There are currently 90 veterans living in the district who fought in the Iraq and/or Afghanistan wars who would automatically qualify for an increase in their tax exemption to an average of $427 each per year if the Oysterponds school board votes to opt into the program, according to a summary prepared by school officials that’s based on information released from the Southold Town Assessor’s Office this week.
In turn, the district’s total property tax assessed value would decrease by $73,000 and the average homeowner’s annual tax bill would increase by an estimate of $19, school officials said.
That figure is based on the district’s current understanding of the exemption, Ms. Thomas said.
Previously, Ms. Thomas said, the district was told all veterans would need to apply for the exemption. That would mean the district’s total tax assessed value would potentially not have been impacted so dramatically.
In addition, the Town Assessor’s Office has reported that an additional 56 veterans living in the district who fought in World War II and/or the Korean War would also be eligible for the exemption, though they would have to apply for it.
It isn’t clear whether Vietnam War veterans would be eligible for the exemption, Ms. Thomas said.
The district’s total tax assessed value could be reduced by around $118,000 if all 146 veterans living in the district received the exemption, she added.
“If they’re going to change the rules every five minutes, I don’t know how I’m going to live up to my charge to be fiscally responsible to the community and say at this point, ‘Yes, let’s move forward,” Ms. Thomas said. “I can’t imagine a situation in which I personally would vote against a benefit for veterans. I come from a long family of people who have served the country and I honestly don’t think we give them enough.”
Superintendent Richard Malone said he felt it was important to weigh the implications of the exemption on the community before committing to a vote.
“Obviously [veterans] are a group of people that we are all thankful and respectful of for what they did for our country, our nation and our community,” he said. “But at the same time I think we have to think of the people in our community that are struggling through a very difficult financial time.”
East Marion resident John Copertino said he didn’t understand why board members wouldn’t just vote right away on the exemption.
“It’s $19 per household per year,” he said. “It’s a small amount.”
The school board decided to vote on the veteran tax exemption at the budget workshop overview scheduled for Feb. 25 at 7 p.m.
The district has until March 1 to vote on the exemption.