For nearly 40 minutes Tuesday night, a group of about 20 veterans sat patiently in the Shoreham-Wading River High School library listening to the Board of Education debate the procedure for middle school students to play varsity sports.
Finally, an older man in the group stood up and admitted: “I do believe most of us can’t contribute anything to what you’re doing, which is extremely interesting.”
The room erupted in laughter as the man excused himself and led the rest of the group toward the exits. Their presence at the school board meeting was to support a property tax exemption for veterans. And as they quickly found out, there wasn’t much convincing that needed to be done.
The board unanimously voted in favor of the resolution just over 10 minutes into the meeting, providing additional tax relief to more than 200 Riverhead residents.
“Gentlemen and ladies, we thank you for your service,” board president Bill McGrath said to the group.
Glen Arcuri, Shoreham’s assistant superintendent for finance and operations, provided a breakdown of what the exemption will mean for qualified veterans.
Mr. Arcuri said for veterans of a “defined period of war,” their assessed property value for which their taxes are determined will be reduced 15 percent, up to a maximum of $12,000. Veterans who were also in combat will receive an additional 10 percent reduction, up to an additional $8,000. Veterans who are disabled are eligible to receive an additional 50 percent off the assessed value, up to a total of $40,000, Mr. Arcuri said.
In Riverhead Town, there are approximately 204 veterans that are eligible. More than half (115) fall under the first criteria as non-combat veterans, Mr. Arcuri said.
The exemption law has been in effect statewide since the 1980s but has until now only been applied to the county and town’s portion of a veteran’s property tax bill. Last year, the state Legislature approved an amendment to expand the program to school districts, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed it into law in December.
Mr. Arcuri said if a veteran is registered with the town as such, no steps need to be taken to receive the tax benefit.
One resident asked whether the exemption applies to a veteran who served at a time of no war. Mr. Arcuri said he did not have an answer.
The exemption will go into effect when the next tax bills are sent out, Mr. Arcuri said.
Remaining homeowners will see a slight bump in the school district portion of their property taxes to offset the exemption for veterans, school officials said.