COLONIE — The South Colonie Board of Education has voted in favor of offering a new Alternative Veterans Tax Exemption, a state program that allows local governments to exempt a portion of the property values of eligible veterans from their property tax bills.
The vote came following a public hearing, prompted by requests from veterans and veteran organizations who asked that the district to consider offering the exemption, at Saddlewood Elementary School on Friday, Feb 25; the district then held a second public hearing on Tuesday, March 1, to discuss which exemptions levels will be made available.
The state authorized the Alternative Veterans Tax Exemption, or AVE, in the mid-1980s for municipal governments and, in 2013, extended the extension as an option for school districts. It is generally available to wartime veterans who served during eligible dates as specified in the law. The state does not provide offsetting revenue to those districts that enact the exemption, so there will be some necessary redistribution of taxes among existing district property owners.
At the minimum exemption level, for example, the owner of a house assessed at $150,000 in Colonie would have paid an estimated $17 more in taxes in the current year if the exemption had been in place/ Residents in Guilderland would have paid $13 more, and the AVE would have cost Niskayuna residents an additional $11. Rate increases for the 2016-17 school year won’t be determined until the summer.
Under the new exemption, veterans will receive reductions based on when and where they served—“wartime” veterans receive the lowest reduction, “combat zone” veterans receive slightly more, and “disabled” veterans receive a significant break on taxable property values. Disabled veterans who served in combat zones or during wartime are able to combine their disability benefit with one (but not both) of the other benefits. According to New York State, the minimum AVE reduction a school district can set is $6,000, $10,000 and $20,000 respectively; and the maximum reduction would be $45,000, $75,000 and $150,000. Savings to eligible veteran homeowners in Colonie for the current year could have been anywhere from $110 to $828 for wartime veterans, and from $478 to $4,139 for disabled or combat zone veterans.
The AVE is available to qualifying residential real property owned by honorably discharged veterans (or certain family members) who “served during defined periods of war or under certain conditions.” The veteran must attach proof to the application form verifying the dates and character of service; additional proof is necessary to justify approval of the combat zone and/or the disability portion of the alternative exemption.
In order to qualify for the exemption, at least part of the veteran’s service must fall within one of the following defined periods of war: Persian Gulf Conflict; Vietnam War; Korean War; and World War II. Generally, reservists who engaged only in active duty for training or who were activated for only short periods of time are not eligible for the alternative exemption. However, reservists who were activated during a period of war and who performed significant, full-time active duty may qualify. Veterans may also qualify for the exemption under certain other conditions, such as those who served with the Merchant Marines, American Field Service or Pan American World Airways during World War II.