At least half of the school districts in the Town of Babylon have passed a resolution to give property tax breaks to spouses of volunteer first responders who died in the line of duty, 14 years after the town should have notified them they could do so.
A 2005 amendment to a state law that allows taxing districts to offer a 10 percent property tax exemption for volunteer firefighters and ambulance workers extended that break to the spouses of those who died in the line of duty and have not remarried, and who were receiving the exemption before their spouse's death.
The town board passed its property tax exemption amendment at that time and should have notified the school districts that school property taxes were also eligible under the amendment.
But according to Town Assessor Joan M. Ball, in 2005 the town made a procedural error.
Auditors recently uncovered the error, town spokesman Kevin Bonner said.
John G. Jordan Sr., acting commissioner of the Suffolk County Office of Fire Rescue, and a Babylon resident, said 9/11-related illnesses that lead to death aren’t considered line-of-duty for this purpose.
Bonner said the town hadn’t received any applications for the tax break since 2005, leading the town to believe there were no cases that may have been eligible but missed out on the school tax break.
Officials from the Suffolk County Office of Fire Rescue and the Firemen's Association of the State of New York didn't recall any line-of-duty deaths during those years that would have qualified a surviving spouse for the benefit. Neither organization tracks line-of-duty deaths by ZIP code.
Robert Leonard, public relations chairman for FASNY, said a death is typically considered a line-of-duty death if the family is eligible for volunteer firefighter death benefits.
According to Bonner, so far, the school districts of Babylon, West Babylon, Copiague, Deer Park, Lindenhurst and Farmingdale passed the 2005 amendment. Half Hollow Hills, Amityville and North Babylon are considering the measure.
Wyandanch didn’t pass the original tax break law, so they aren’t eligible to add the 2005 amendment, Bonner said.