Weekly Feature

2017-11-09 / Front Page

Lancaster Central approves tax exemption for Cold War vets

by ALAN RIZZO Reporter

Cold War veterans living in the Lancaster Central School District will be eligible for the maximum tax exemption allowable under state law in 2018-19, following approval of a measure by the Board of Education Monday night.

According to Jamie Phillips, the district’s assistant superintendent for business and support services, the measure will allow for up to a $12,000 exemption for Cold War veterans and up to a $40,000 exemption for disabled Cold War veterans, aligning with similar exemptions available through the towns of Cheektowaga, Lancaster and Elma, the Village of Lancaster and Erie County.

Phillips said 210 veterans living in the district are eligible to participate and must apply to through their town of residence for the exemption if they aren’t already receiving it on their town and county taxes.

District resident Bob Potozniak, a Cold War veteran who advocated for the exemption in the spring, thanked the board and district officials for approving it and recognizing a lost generation of soldiers.

“A lot of times, people thank me for my service to the country because I wear military attire at times, and it’s tough for me to answer that because 35 or 40 years ago, that wasn’t the kind of reception we were given,” said Potozniak, who served for four years as a captain in the Army and was a reservist for 14 years. “I want to thank you for your support.”

Phillips said the exemption will not lead to an overall tax levy increase, but property tax rates for nonveterans in the district will rise to compensate.

She said rates for nonveterans living in Lancaster and Cheektowaga could rise by an estimated 2 cents per $1,000 of assessed value.

For owners of a $100,000 house, that means a $2 increase for 2018-19.

Nonveteran taxpayers in Elma could see an estimated increase of $6.75 per $1,000.

Differences in tax rate increases between the towns are a result of the equalization rate, which is New York’s measurement of a municipality’s level of assessment.

Passed by state lawmakers last year, the Cold War Veterans’ Exemption allows for a 10 percent to 15 percent reduction in the assessed value of a primary residence or property of veterans who served during the Cold War.

Cold War veterans who have suffered a “service-connected disability” due to their military service are eligible for additional reductions.

All reductions must be adopted by the local taxing jurisdiction within which the veteran’s property lies, which is also responsible for setting the maximum dollar limit for exemptions.

All board members voted in favor of the exemption except Brenda Christopher, who abstained out of a concern that her husband’s status as a Cold War veteran would be a conflict of interest.

Board President Patrick Uhteg described approval of the measure as a continuation of the district’s leadership on passing exemptions for veterans, recalling the district’s approval of the Alternate Veterans Tax Exemption in 2014.

“I remember very well when Lancaster was the leader in the area passing the veterans tax exemption some years ago at the highest levels,” he said. “I think it speaks a lot to our thankfulness and our gratitude to those who serve our country that we offer this exemption, too.”

The board will hold its next meeting at 7 p.m. Monday Dec. 4, at Lancaster High School, 1 Forton Drive.

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