School Disricts debating giving veterans a school tax exemption

Should veterans get a break on their school taxes? Even if it means higher school taxes for everyone else? It's a questions area school districts are struggling with right now.

School administrators were surprised when Governor Cuomo signed a bill, giving them the power to grant school tax exemptions to veterans. Now, they're up against a deadline to decide how big the exemption might be, and how much other district residents' taxes will go up to cover the shift

The bill signing was the week before Christmas, so getting details on how it would work was also a challenge for the schools.

Tully Superintendent Kraig Pritts told us that just knowing the number of veterans was not enough, because they also had to figure each one's assessment, to see how much of the tax burden would have to be shifted. They're still working on the numbers, though pritts says some local districts are talking about over a million dollars.

The timing is another issue: because of the holidays, work did not start until January, which, in Tully, meant that the School Board realistically had only one meeting to make a decision before the end-of-February deadline.

An interesting note: the bill the governor signed puts the decision on the veterans tax exemptions, and how much of an exemption would be allowed (up to 15%) up to school boards, but NY State also gains, because if veterans get an exemption, that amount is taken from STAR rebates, and the amount taken from Star goes back to the state.

Right now, the school board would have to figure how to compensate for the whole amount of the exemption, but there are also proposals from the NY Legislature to have the state 'refund' some of it. "That's a huge wrinkle that's been thrown into the mix," says Pritts. "We're in flux, it is still a moving target."

Because of the uncertainties, Tully's Board says it is delaying its decision until next year's budget.

Other districts have two and a half weeks to make theirs.