BALLSTON SPA – The Ballston Spa Central School District Board of Education set a tentative time table to consider offering the Alternative Veterans Tax Exemption during Wednesday’s meeting.
Board of Education President Kevin Schaefer asked the board to set target dates to gather information on the financial impact of offering the exemption, share this information with the public, hold a public hearing and vote on the measure in order to address looming question of the veterans exemption.
Recently local veterans have been attending school board meetings to request that the school district begin offering the veterans exemption that was signed into law by New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo at the end of 2013.
At the Feb. 2 school board meeting Schaefer said that the board would not be considering the exemption for the 2017-18 school budget. He explained that there would be insufficient time for the board to fully consider and vote on the matter before the March 1 deadline to have an approved exemption take effect for next school year.
The Alternative Veterans Tax Exemption allows individual school districts to offer a property tax break to veterans if adopted by the school board by resolution. The state does not reimburse school districts that offer the exemption. The district’s budget and tax levy remain the same when the exemption is offered causing the total cost of the exemption to be carried by the non-exempt residents.
Under the exemption, veterans who served in active duty during World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the Gulf War, or spouses of deceased veterans, would receive a 15 percent reduction in assessed property value on their school taxes up to a maximum value set by the school board.
Another 10 percent reduction would be offered to veterans who served in a combat zone and veterans who were disabled in service would receive an additional reduction based on their disability rating from the Veterans Administration or the Department of Defense.
During Wednesday’s meeting board members agreed to move forward with gathering data on the potential impact of approving the exemption, planning to share this information with the public at the beginning of June through a newsletter or survey, in addition to online sources.
The board made tentative plans to hold a public hearing during the regular meeting on Sept. 6 and to put the exemption to a vote during the Sept. 20 meeting.
BSCSD Superintendent Joseph Dragone previously estimated that passage of the veterans exemption at the limits currently in place at the county level would decrease the district’s tax base by over $40 million.
“There is no question that it’s deserved. What is hard is that the government is allowing school districts to do this, but it is on everybody else’s dollar. It’s not the government giving the difference,” Board Member Nancy Fodera said.
During the public comment period, local veteran Thomas Rielly informed the board that the nearby Shenendehowa School District Board of Education voted in favor of adopting the Alternative Veteran’s Tax Exemption on Feb. 7.
“I would hope that the board of the Ballston Spa Central School District has similar feelings and comes to similar conclusions based on similar input,” he said.
Following the meeting Schaefer explained that he wanted to set a timeline for considering the exemption so far in advance to ensure that the board would return to the discussion.
“We certainly don’t want to lose track of it after it has been around for three years. We want to put a schedule out there that we can adhere to. With all the other things going on in the district it is easy to lose track of things, this way this gets documented and it gives us a plan to follow,” he said.
While local veterans had hoped that the board would vote to enact the exemption in time for the 2017-18 school year, they expressed satisfaction that the board was preparing to tackle the measure in time for the 2018-19 budget process.
“We think that the school board has a pretty decent plan as far as how they’re going to approach the veterans exemption and the timeline that they’ve set. We’re pretty satisfied with that,” veteran Gene Ratiglian said. “Do we wish it could have been for this year? Yes, we do.”
In other business, the board passed a resolution approving Superintendent Dragone’s actions engaging repair services following a fire in the mechanical room at Ballston Spa Middle School on Feb. 5.
The fire was caused by a faulty battery in a floor cleaning machine. According to Dragone, first responders had the fire extinguished in fifteen minutes. Smoke from the fire caused damage to the school’s mechanical and electrical controls, which were housed in the utility room.
Although the fire was confined to a single room, smoke and water damage occurred throughout the building. The school remained closed for one week following the fire to allow for cleaning and repairs, reopening on Monday.
According to Dragone, all of necessary repairs and cleaning were completed last week. Minor work, such as repainting will be completed while students are on midwinter break from Feb. 20 through Feb. 24.
Dragone anticipates that the cost of the cleaning and repair work will be covered by the school district’s insurance policy.