Written by Rich Forestano & Daniel Offner Friday, 18 April 2014 00:00
Due to what appears to be a colossal error on the part of the Nassau County Assessor’s office, or perhaps an errant interpretation of state law, 1,100 military veterans and Gold Star families in Farmingdale will have to wait for their tax break until next year.
The Farmingdale School District is among several local school districts that recently approved resolutions extending the exemption to local veterans, even though budgets and Albany’s tax cap make it a tough choice. Earlier this year, school board trustees uanimously voted to provide a school tax exemption for veterans living in the district, starting with the 2014-15 school year.
“School districts were notified that board resolutions needed to be passed no later than March 15, 2014 for the exemption to take effect for the next school year,” school district officials said in a release. “The Farmingdale School District met its obligation... however,
Nassau County notified school districts on April 1, 2014 that even though we met our obligation, due to factors outside their control, the exemption would be delayed to the 2015/16 school year.”
On Dec. 18, Gov. Cuomo signed a new law allowing local school districts to extend tax exemptions to U.S. military veterans and some families. Each district was required to pass a resolution to opt in. An email sent from Deputy Assessor Michele D. Wawrzynski to school administrators on Jan. 8, obtained by The Farmingdale Observer, says “resolution must be transmitted to the Nassau County Department of Assessment no later than March 15, 2014, to be effective for the 2014-15 school year.”
A letter from the county signed by Acting Assessor James E. Davis and sent on April 1, however, says that in fact Jan. 2 was the deadline. Although the letter acknowledges that all school districts seem to have been caught out, “To my office’s knowledge, all school districts throughout Nassau County passed resolutions ... AFTER Jan. 2,” it does not acknowledge any role the assessor’s office may have played in such a widespread misunderstanding. The assessor’s office declined to speak on the record, but did email a copy of the April letter.
In response to the letter, the school district issued the following statement: “The district is grateful for the commitment and bravery our local veterans have sacrificed for our community. We will continue to work with them, and our entire community, regarding the issues that affect our schools.”
The veterans bill offers three tiers of income exemption: $12,000 for all eligible recipients, with an additional $8,000 for combat veterans and an additional $40,000 for all veterans who suffered a “service connected” disability. Exemptions would be available for residents whose children were killed while in military service (known as “Gold Star Parents”) as well. The exemption will now take effect starting the 2015-16 school year.
— With additional reporting by Chris Boyle