School board approves tax relief for vets, firefighters, ambulance workers

FUN WAY TO START THE DAY AT SCHOOL — Teachers and staff at the Lake Placid Elementary School greeted students on the morning of Friday, Sept. 15 dressed in inflatable costumes. (Provided photo — Alicia Brandes)

LAKE PLACID — The Lake Placid Central School District Board of Education voted to adopt two resolutions that grant qualifying veterans, volunteer firefighters and ambulance workers school tax relief Tuesday, Sept. 19. The veterans’ exemption passed unanimously; the volunteer firefighters’ and ambulance workers’ exemption passed with board member and volunteer firefighter Ryan St Louis abstaining and the remaining six members voting in favor. The vote comes after several months of deliberation and public feedback.

The New York state Department of Taxation and Finance offers three different property tax exemptions to veterans who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces and reside in a county, city, town or village that has opted to provide the exemption. School districts are allowed to offer two of the three exemptions; the third does not fall under the purview of a school district. The state also offers a property tax exemption to volunteer firefighters and ambulance workers.

Under the new LPCSD exemption, a qualifying veteran will receive an exemption from 15% of their property’s assessed value, with a cap at $36,000. If the veteran provides documentation of service in a combat zone, they will receive an exemption from an additional 10% of their property’s assessed value, with a cap at $60,000. If the veteran sustained a service-related disability, they will receive an exemption from an additional percentage of their property equivalent to 50% of their disability rating. A disability rating is a percent value assigned to a veteran by the Veterans Administration or Department of Defense following assessment for service-related disabilities to represent the severity of their service-related disabilities. The disability exemption is capped at $120,000.

A qualifying volunteer first responder would receive an exemption from being taxed on up to 10% of the assessed value of their property, provided their property is their primary residence, the property is used primarily as a residence and they have served for at least two years immediately preceding application for the exemption. Any qualifying volunteer first responder who has accrued 20 years of service is eligible for a lifetime exemption, provided their primary residence remains in the district.

Exemptions are also available to the spouses of deceased volunteer first responder for as long as the spouse does not remarry. For example, if a volunteer firefighter died in the line of duty, was already receiving an exemption and had served for at least five years, their un-remarried spouse could retain the exemption. The same goes for the spouses of deceased volunteers who did not die in the line of duty, but this volunteer needs to have served for at least 20 years.

The amount of taxes the district collects to fund its budget will not change with the new exemption. This means that taxpayers who are not privy to the exemptions will need to pay slightly more in taxes. According to a presentation by Deb Mueller, town of North Elba assessor’s aide, at the Sept. 6 school board meeting, this comes out to about 0.3% of the taxes collected by the district would be shifted onto the non-exempt taxpayers. These numbers are not final; Wilmington was not included in the calculations.

The village of Lake Placid and the town of North Elba are also allowed to offer tax exemptions to veterans and volunteer first responders on town and village taxes. Both offer veterans tax exemptions, and both boards are now contemplating offering exemptions for first responders, too. The North Elba Town Council has set a public hearing on the volunteer first responders’ exemption for Oct. 3 at 5:15 p.m. The Lake Placid Village Board delayed setting a public hearing for the exemption at its meeting Monday, Sept. 18, citing a need for more time to gather information on the exemption.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story stated that the town of North Elba and village of Lake Placid have not codified veterans’ or first responders’ tax exemptions. This is incorrect; both the town and village offer tax exemptions to veterans and are currently exploring a potential first responders’ tax exemption. The News regrets the error.

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