Merrick district passes vets' tax breaks

Officials lower estimate of tax breaks' cost

By Brian Racow

The Merrick Board of Education on Sept. 9 approved school tax exemptions for local veterans, ending months of rancor that followed the board's choice last winter to miss a deadline to pass the exemptions for the 2014-15 school year.

Contingents of Merrick veterans were present at board meetings during the spring and summer to voice their protest, arguing that they had earned tax reductions for their service to the country. District officials originally cited concerns about the exemptions' cost to non-veteran homeowners and permanent nature under state law, but eventually they changed their minds. The board vote on Sept. 9 was unanimous.

merrick district passes vets tax breaks
Veterans listened at a Merrick Board of Education meeting this spring.

The lag time, it turned out, will not affect any Merrick residents' wallets. The Nassau County Department of Assessment in April retroactively moved the 2014-15 deadline to Jan. 2 — just 15 days after Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the law that created the exemptions. Since no Nassau school districts voted on the exemptions prior to Jan. 2, no Nassau veterans will receive the exemptions before 2015-16.

The Merrick board last Tuesday passed tax exemptions for all legally eligible classes of veterans, including those who rent, rather than own, their homes, according to Merrick Superintendent Dominick Palma. He said the board did not, however, pass exemptions for Gold Star parents — that is, parents of Armed Forces members who died in war.

Palma and Board President Butch Yamali said the exemptions would cost non-veteran Merrick households $26 annually, $10 less than an estimate that Christine Grucci, assistant superintendent for business, gave earlier this year.

Yamali said no one expressed dissent as the board moved to pass the exemptions at its Sept. 9 meeting.

"We discussed how important veterans' service is," Yamali said. "... [$26] was not enough to even have a battle, if you ask me."

Kenneth Braun Sr., commander of Merrick's American Legion Post 1282, said veterans' engagement at board meetings made the difference. "We worked hard," he said. "We made sure the fellas came out to each meeting. The veterans deserve their tax break. They went out and served their country. They went out, and some of them got maimed. Some of them lost their lives. It's not like it's a lot of money. It shows respect to our community's veterans."

Paul Zydor, commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1310 of Merrick and Freeport, was also pleased with the outcome. "It doesn't take effect until next year, but... it's still a good thing," he said.

Brian, Racow, "Merrick district passes vets’ tax breaks, Officials lower estimate of tax breaks’ cost",,58612?content_source=&category_id=&search_filter=&event_mode=&event_ts_from=&list_type=featured&order_by=&order_sort=&content_class=&sub_type=&town_id=,58444?page=1&content_source= (collected 9-20-2014)

Brian, Racow, "Merrick district passes vets’ tax breaks, Officials lower estimate of tax breaks’ cost", Merrick Herald Life, 18 September 2014, pp. 18 & 19

photo: courtesy of Brian Racow / Herald Life


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