The Board of Education would like to review, and place in context, the Veterans Tax Exemption petition that was discussed at our March 13, 2019 regular meeting.
Over the years, the New Lebanon BOE has addressed whether to grant a status-based property tax exemption, such as the Veterans Tax Exemption or the Volunteer Firefighters and Ambulance Workers Exemption. Its position has been consistent. Such exemptions have not been granted for the following reasons:
- They do nothing to reduce taxes or save money for the taxpayers of the School District as a whole. In order for one person or group to get a tax break, the remaining residents must make up for the difference by paying higher property taxes; and,
- The Board is committed to spreading the tax burden as equitably as possible among the taxpayers.
The Board’s longstanding position does not imply disrespect to any group in our community. We have the utmost respect for all residents who support our schools through their tax dollars. This would be a much easier decision if the cost of these exemptions was borne not by our neighbors, but by the State – similar to the STAR or Enhanced STAR exemptions. The STAR exemptions do not shift additional financial burden from one class of residents to another within the community.
Under New York State law and the recommendation of the Commissioner of Education, the local School Board has the sole authority to decide whether or not to grant the Alternative Veterans Exemption in relation to school district taxes. Thus, the issue is not within the power of the voters to decide via petition for a proposition to be placed on the ballot or any other public referendum. On this legal basis, the Board had to reject the petition submitted.
The Board and Administration struggle every year to maintain the highest quality of education for our students, those currently in our schools and those yet to enter, while being ever mindful of the annual tax burden this places upon all New Lebanon residents. While we are careful in developing fiscal strategy and monitoring our budgets, we recognize that no matter how prudent we are, over time, increasing costs will require some increase in taxes and difficult choices. We understand and share the pain every resident experiences when they get their tax bills each year. Status based tax exemptions, while well-intentioned and beneficial to some, over time, merely compound property tax increases for everyone else.