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March 5, 2014

Veteran tax breaks to go before voters

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal —

Lockport City School District residents will have the opportunity to cast a vote in May on whether or not school tax exemptions should be offered for military veterans. But, the matter will only be an "advisory proposition," as the final decision still rests with the Board of Education.

The proposition will appear on the May 20 ballot, when residents cast a vote in the budget and school board election.

Board members decided with a 7-1 vote Wednesday to offer the proposition to voters to gauge the public's feelings concerning the exemptions.

"It's like doing a survey," said Vice President David Nemi.

The authorized breaks are: a 15 percent reduction in assessed property value for veterans who served during a time of war; another 10 percent reduction for those who were in a combat zone; and an additional reduction for veterans with service-connected disabilities.

According to state law, if a school board authorizes veterans exemptions, they also have to choose a level to cap the reduction at. The board elected to go with the cap level of $6,000 for the wartime veterans, an additional $10,000 for those who served in a combat zone and up to $20,000 for a disabled veteran. A school district-offered tax exemption would be at the same level for every veteran within the district's borders regardless of what municipality they lived in.

But, the exemptions don't affect the amount of tax revenue the district brings in. Meaning the reduction in taxes is covered by raising the taxes of non-veterans and those who don't qualify.

When the matter first came before the board in January, Assistant Superintendent for Finance Deborah Coder said when using this year’s school budget and tax levy, the tax rate would have increased by 36 cents, to $25.75 per $1,000 of assessed value. On a home assessed at $100,000, the school tax bill would rise by $36.27 with the STAR rebate.

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