The potential impact of the alternative veterans tax exemption will be the topic of a presentation by the Dobbs Ferry School District’s assistant superintendent for finance, facilities, and operations, Ron Clamser, at the March 24 meeting of the Dobbs Ferry School Board.
On Feb. 4, the school board received a request to adopt the exemption from former Dobbs Ferry Mayor Don Marra, along with military veterans Alan Piko and Bill Florin, who presented a petition signed by 44 veterans. In Dobbs Ferry, 114 residents qualify for the exemption.
The baseline exemption reduces the assessed value of a wartime veteran’s primary residence by 15 percent (or no more than $12,000); plus 10 percent (or no more than $8,000) for veterans who served in combat zones; plus no more than $40,000 for veterans with compensation ratings for service-connected disabilities.
Of the 10 school districts in the Town of Greenburgh, four have adopted the exemption — Hastings, Pocantico Hills, Tarrytown, and Valhalla — with the baseline limits, according to Greenburgh Town Assessor Edye McCarthy.
In Westchester, municipalities and school districts can decrease those limits to as little as $6,000, $4,000, and $20,000 or increase them to as much as $75,000, $50,000, and $250,000. The Town of Greenburgh and its six village governments all set their limits at $54,000, $36,000, and $180,000, according to McCarthy.
Prior to 2013, only municipalities could adopt the alternative veterans tax exemption in New York State. Starting in 2013, school districts were allowed to adopt it as well.
Dobbs Ferry Schools Superintendent Lisa Brady told the Enterprise, “The board has talked about this [the exemption] in a general way, but they’ve never been approached directly by a veterans group about it. Don did an excellent job of presenting it.”
Marra, who is not a veteran, served as mayor from 1989-1997. He met with McCarthy to review the impact of the available exemptions.
Seventy-three-year-old Piko, a lifelong resident of Dobbs Ferry, was a sergeant in the U.S. Army from 1966-1968, during the Vietnam War. He retired from his business, Piko Plumbing, in 2009.
“The school board listened to us, but just sitting there and evaluating the looks on their faces, I thought, ‘We’re not getting anything from them,’” Piko said. “They thank you [for your service] at the end of the meeting; I appreciate the thanks, but I could use a break.”
Florin, 82, has been commander of Dobbs Ferry’s American Legion Post 1048 for 20 years, and resident of the village for 54 years. He served in the U.S. Army National Guard for 43 years — 29 on active duty and the rest on standby.
“I really approve of this because the guys are getting hit hard and heavy with other taxes besides real estate taxes,” Florin said of the exemption. He noted that returning veterans often serve their communities as fire department and ambulance corps volunteers.
“They need a tax break,” he said.
In 2015, state Assemblyman Tom Abinanti and state Sen. David Carlucci first introduced an amendment that would require the State to reimburse school districts for the tax revenue lost as a result of granting the exemption. In that year and subsequent years, neither the Assembly nor the Senate voted on the amendment.
In January, Abinanti and Carlucci introduced the amendment again, with the restriction that the exemption be limited to veterans with incomes under $500,000. The bill was referred to the Assembly’s Veterans’ Affairs Committee and the Senate’s Veterans’, Homeland Security, and Military Affairs Committee.
American Legion Post 458 in Ardsley, led by the post’s communications director Frank Pagani, has been lobbying state lawmakers to adopt the amendment.