Kings Park school board mulls property tax breaks for vets
The Kings Park school board is mulling a plan to reduce taxes for military veterans by lowering their property assessments by 15 percent or more.
State law was amended in December to permit school districts to offer the veterans tax exemption, which New York towns have been allowed to offer since 1984.
Kings Park officials could not estimate how much veterans' taxes would be reduced if the exemption is adopted. They said taxes on homes owned by nonveterans would go up an average of $82.80 annually to compensate for lost tax revenue.
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Kings Park would join a handful of other Long Island school districts that provide the exemption. The Amityville, Syosset, Rocky Point and Port Jefferson districts have approved the tax break; school officials in Deer Park and Malverne are considering adopting plans.
If approved, district officials said veterans' property assessments would be reduced by 15 percent. Veterans who served in combat zones would receive an additional 10 percent property assessment cut; veterans with war-related disabilities would be eligible for an additional reduction based on the nature and severity of their injuries.
The school board took no action on Tuesday following a public hearing at which two people -- both veterans -- spoke in favor of the tax cut. No one spoke in opposition.
Kings Park American Legion commander Daniel Ryan said veterans deserved the exemption for the sacrifices they made while they were in uniform.
"They served their country, they served their community," Ryan said at the hearing. "They struggle the same as everyone else . . . It certainly is a good way for the community to say 'Thank you' to their veterans."
Kevin O'Hare, who spoke of his service during the Vietnam War, said the tax cut would help veterans struggling with combat-related conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder.
"We're always out there fighting the good fight for everyone," he said.
School board vice president Tom Locascio said he supported the exemption, but said he favored putting the issue before voters in a referendum.
"I think putting it up for a vote allows the whole community to be heard," said Locascio, an aide to State Senate co-leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre). "I think there's a tremendous amount of support for our veterans in Kings Park."
Board president Marie Goldstein said she agreed with Locascio.