WILMINGTON - Veterans came out in support of property tax exemptions Tuesday night during the Lake Placid school board meeting.
School district Superintendent Roger Catania explained to the board that veteran exemptions will now be extended to school districts. The school board can decide whether they want to give veterans a property tax break and how much. To gain an exemption, the property would have to be the veteran's main residence.
The board will make a decision on the matter at a later date. If the school board decides to grant veterans an exemption, a separate public hearing will be announced. Catania said the tax levy would not be increased due to the program, but the costs would shift.
"This exemption, if granted, will shift the burden of taxation from veterans to non-veterans," Catania said.
"The impact on all other taxpayers we can only estimate," he added. "It approximately represents 2.8 cents per thousand (dollars in assessed property value)."
A basic exemption program used as an example during the meeting would reduce the assessment, for school tax purposes, of a war veteran by $12,000, of a combat veteran by $20,000 and a disabled veteran by $40,000. The school board can choose to increase or decrease those figures according to their preference.
Al Armstrong, a Vietnam War veteran and owner of Mountain Brook Lodge, served for 20 years in the Marines, obtaining the rank of sergeant. He expressed his support for the exemptions, saying the veterans deserved the appreciation.
"As a proud veteran, we have served our great nation at a time when so few did, and when so many chose not to or were not able to," Armstrong said. "As a veteran who gave a commitment to our country to protect our citizens and our Constitution, to put ourselves in harm's way, ready to die for your rights and mine.
"This small token of appreciation for the people who have sacrificed would go a long way in telling everyone how much they value their brave men and women in the military." he said. "It's not the monetary value that is important; it's the recognition."
Armstrong said he appreciated that the state Assembly and Gov. Andrew Cuomo left the decision up to the local government. After reading his statement to the board, Armstrong let out a "Semper Fi," the Marines' slogan, while leaving the room.
Eugene Loughran, an Air Force veteran who served during the Vietnam War, also came to the meeting in support of the exemption. He said if the proposal passes, it would save him at least 15 percent on his property tax.
(Editor's note: An earlier version of this article said the exemption program used as an example during the meeting would reduce veterans' taxes, not their assessments, by the amounts stated. The Enterprise regrets the error.)