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County Assessor Delays Vets Tax Break

Due to what appears to be a colossal error on the part of the Nassau County Assessor’s office, military veterans and Gold Star families will have to wait for their tax break until next year.

Plainview is one of several local school districts that recently approved resolutions extending an exemption to local veterans, even though budgets and Albany’s tax cap make it a tough choice. Last month, despite concerns about lack of confidence in the validity of eligibility information provided by the county assessor’s office, the Plainview trustees voted to provide a school tax exemption for veterans living in the Plainview-Old Bethpage School District, starting with the 2014-2015 school year.

“The veterans in our community have our total support,” said school board president Ginger Lieberman at the board’s meeting on April 9. “We regret the Assessor’s office made this error.”

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 Plainview-Old Bethpage Herald, says “resolution must be transmitted to the Nassau County Department of Assessment no later than March 15th, 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. Many school districts were caught by surprise, which the letter seems to recognize: “To my office’s knowledge, all school districts throughout Nassau County passed resolutions ... AFTER Jan. 2,” it does not, however, acknowledge any role the assessor’s office may have played in such a widespread misunderstanding. The assessor’s office declined to address the issue on the record, but did email a copy of the April letter.

“The Assessor’s Office originally gave us until March 15 to opt in to the program,” said Lieberman.

“But the Assessor’s office in its infinate wisdom is deciding to blame the school districts. This should have gone through for this year, and we regret that Nassau has decided to push it to next year.”

The veterans school tax bill offers three tiers of income exemption: $12,000 for all eligible recipients, with an additional $8,000 for all veterans who served in a “combat zone” 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 school board noted that the veterans exemptions will now take effect starting the 2015-2016 school year.

“So many of our veterans are on a fixed income and this would have really helped them this year,” said Lieberman. “This generaton wants to live in our community and wants to be a part of the community, and it’s a shame that someone made this error.”