Lansing Schools

The Lansing Board of Education continued to consider offering a veteran's tax exemption that could be applied to the 2018 tax bill.  An exit survey after this year's school budget vote, plus an (unscientific) online survey indicated support for offering a discount to veterans, even though it would mean more taxes for non-veterans.

"The answers to that question in the exit survey were pretty overwhelmingly in favor of the veterans' exemption," School Business Administrator Mary June King told the Lansing Board Of Education.  "We said we would talk about it some more with you and perhaps if we added it to our exemption list we would be doing a review of our exemptions."

Trumansburg is the only school district in Tompkins County that currently offers a veteran's exemption.  Qualified veterans may be billed less on their property tax bill, up to a cap.  The caps vary for different levels of service and disability.  Over the past few months King noted the district already offers exemptions for disabled property owners and seniors.  She recommended an annual review of all exemptions.

"When we say 'overwhelming support' it was just the number of people that completed the exit poll, which is about half of our voting population," said School Superintendent Chris Pettograsso.  "About 60% said yes.  A number of those people also said 'please lower taxes'.  It may mean 'lower them differently, but support this increase'.  So there's a lot more to the straw poll than just the straight up approval of this."

King noted that the exemption does not change the amount of money the school district collects, but does shift the burden from veterans to other property owners.  Board member Susan Tabrizi said that the exemption is an example of various ways the State puts school districts on the spot, rather than simply aiding districts directly.  Districts are caught between wanting to support military veterans and wanting to keep taxes as low as possible for all taxpayers. 

"This is a district by district suggestion and perhaps we might want to advocate for it to be a state-wide situation rather than piecemeal," she Tabrizi.  "When you are talking about districts that have and have not approved it, what are we talking about in terms of districts who have been presented with it and chosen not to adopt it."

New York State recommends dollar amounts for the caps, but individual districts may choose different amounts.

"Chris and I have talked about it at length," King said.  "Our recommendation, if you were to move forward with the veteran's exemption would be that we go with this lowest end ($6000 wartime; 10,000 combat zone; 20,000 disability).  Just to get a feel for it.  Just to see what the reaction is if you were to go that way.  Instead of taking a large step towards it, perhaps a baby step.  You can change it annually.  You can back out of it completely annually.  You can increase it annually as you please."