August 20, 2010
County weighs Cold War tax exemption
About 512 veterans from that era would receive 15 percent reduction in assessment
A proposal to allow property tax exemptions for Cold War veterans and volunteer firefighters could benefit 988 property owners but leave taxpayers shouldering about an additional $54,000 tax burden next year.
The tax exemptions would give 512 veteran property owners a 15 percent tax break on their assessment and 476 firemen a 10 percent break.
With the average tax rate of $15.41, a taxpayer who receives the veterans exemption would save about $200 on his or her tax bill.
The Budget and Finance Committee discussed the idea of passing a resolution to allow additional exemptions Thursday. No decision was made.
The town of Cortlandville allowed Cold War tax exemptions earlier this year. Between mid-February and March 1 about 30 Cortlandville residents signed up for the exemptions, which would be applicable on their 2011 tax bills. After that period residents who applied would not see the exemption until the 2012 bill.
Real Property Tax Services Director Bill Cinquanti brought up the idea of the exemptions at the meeting.
Cinquanti said veterans from the Cold War are the only classification of veterans that does not qualify for tax exemptions.
There are 2,208 veterans who receive exemptions in the county, according to Cinquanti.
Cinquanti estimates there are approximately 4,000 veterans in the county. Of those, he estimates 2,720 are homeowners.
Allowing Cold War veterans the exemption would result in 512 people receiving the exemption.
Given the average tax rate of $15.41, Cinquanti estimates granting the exemptions would shift $32,181 in taxes onto other property owners in Cortland County.
With the current veteran exemptions, taxpayers pay about an extra $273,234 to cover the lost revenue.
The Cold War exemptions would be granted to active duty veterans who were discharged between Sept. 2, 1945 and Dec. 26, 1991.
Legislator John Troy (D-1st Ward) said he feels guilty qualifying for an exemption as a Vietnam Veteran since he never had overseas combat, while Cold War veterans who were overseas do not get an exemption.
Cinquanti said if the county wants to allow the exemptions, it has until December to pass the resolution.
County Attorney Ed Purser said he will research whether a local law would need to be passed to allow the exemptions.
Some legislators also support allowing exemptions for volunteer firefighters and ambulance workers.
Legislator Danny Ross (R-Cortlandville) favored the idea.
“With all the work they do, this is something we should do,” Ross said.
But Legislator Michael Park (R-Homer) pointed out that these exemptions would shoulder residents with an even greater property tax burden.
“It is even less taxpayers picking up a bigger share,” Park said, adding he would rather see the towns do something to benefit their local fire departments instead of the county shouldering the burden.
The committee decided to take Legislature Chairman Jack Williams’ (D-8th Ward) advice and hold off until October when the county has a better idea of the budget.
“See what is really happening in the county and see what damage we may be having before we jump on this,” Williams said.
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