The Ramapo Central school board will delay any decision to make property tax exemptions available to veterans until a later date so officials have time to study the tax impact on the rest of the district.
The new school tax break for veterans, signed into law in December, is a partial property tax exemption available to service veterans who are residents of districts that opt in.
Yonkers, Carmel and Brewster school districts held public hearings and approved the exemption before the March 1 deadline to make tax breaks available this year, while several other districts are considering a vote at a later date.
Ramapo Central held a public hearing last week that drew about a hundred people and more than a dozen speakers, most of whom have urged officials to approve the exemption.
The board, however, decided it didn’t have enough information on how non-veteran taxpayers would be impacted in order to hold a vote. The exemptions given to veterans are disbursed throughout the rest of the taxpayer population.
“There can be no question about the selfless service that our veterans have given to our country and our community,” Ramapo Central board president Craig Long said in a statement last week. “The question before our board is not whether veterans have distinguished themselves as exemplary citizens, but rather how we as a board can recognize their service while not making the tax burden for our other residents even more difficult.”
Long added: “The state of New York has put this, and every other Board of Education, in the middle of this impossible situation. Do we grant the veterans tax exemptions at the expense of our other taxpayers, or do we not do so, to the disappointment of our veterans?”
Lower Hudson Valley school districts have levied similar criticism at state officials for not offering to fund the exemption.
Ramapo Central will form a committee to review the tax impact; prior to last week’s hearing, sufficient details on how much more non-veterans could expect to pay weren’t available, Long said.
Committee members will include veterans representing different service organizations as well as school officials.
Suffern resident Ed Markunas said he’s satisfied that the district will further examine the numbers and is hopeful the board will support the exemption in the near future.
“For the veterans, we would be more comfortable with (the school board) being fully informed of the financial impact than making a decision (without) the proper information,” said Markunas, who served in the U.S. Coast Guard and New York Air National Guard.