Wartime veterans and Gold Star families in the Smithtown Central School District will get a break on their property taxes after the school board passed tax exemptions for them Tuesday night.
The 5-0 vote, with two board members absent, was taken in a room packed with veterans and their supporters. The proceedings were interrupted several times when the crowd and school district officials gave standing ovations to the veterans who spoke.
The exemption will provide a $157.20 reduction in assessed value for wartime veterans, with additional exemptions for those who served in a combat zone or were disabled. Gold Star families — families of service members who died in the line of duty during wartime — also will be eligible for exemptions.
Matias Ferreira, 28, a Marine veteran and Suffolk County police officer who was wounded by a bomb in Afghanistan and stands on titanium prosthetics, said he is building a house in the district for his young family. He said he would be helped by the tax exemption.
“I’m very proud I’ll be living in this town,” he told the board.
Ferreira added the savings especially would help older comrades who are retired.
“This is not for my generation; it’s for the generation before me,” he told the board. “The least we can do is give them a little bit of a tax break.”
Dominick Ercolano, 92, a World War II veteran, told the board how, when he was growing up in Brooklyn, he’d dreamed he’d one day live in a place like Smithtown.
“Let’s end this and vote for these men,” said Kerry Maher-Weisse, who is president of the Community Association of Greater St. James. She told a reporter she was speaking as a resident, not for the association.
Nobody spoke against the measure.
According to the district, 1,381 veterans will be eligible for the exemption, which will take effect in the 2018-19 school year. Those exemptions, combined with those for Gold Star parents, would shift about $241,400 in taxes from those households to nonexempt homes. Taxes on nonexempt homes would rise by about 32 cents per $100 of assessed value, so a homeowner with a home assessed at $6,000 would pay about $19.29 more per year.
The district had been the only one in Smithtown not to offer a veterans exemption. In 2014, the school board voted 5-2 against an exemption measure, but three of the five trustees who voted against it have since departed the board. Trustees Gladys Waldron and Joanne McEnroy, who voted against the measure in 2014 and still serve on the board, did not attend Tuesday’s meeting.