118th ASSEMBLY DISTRICT — Robert Smullen, a Republican candidate for the 118th Assembly District, has a primary-residence-only combat veteran property tax exemption applied to both his homes — one in Niskayuna and the other in Johnstown.
The 118th Assembly district comprises several central Adirondack towns, including Fulton County.
Niskayuna Town Assessor Amy Houlihan said Smullen has a combat veteran tax exemption and a tax exemption for being 70 percent disabled due to his military service applied to his house at 2169 Appletree Lane.
She said that house is assessed for $305,000, and the two military exemptions result in a $105,000 reduction to that assessment. She said both military veteran exemptions are only allowed for a primary residence and were applied to the Niskayuna home in 2017 and are currently applied for 2018.
Johnstown Town Assessor Katherine Oare said Smullen has a combat veteran exemption applied to a house he has built at 265 State Highway 309 in the town of Johnstown. She said that exemption is worth 25 percent of the property for town and county taxes. She confirmed that Smullen built the new home between 2016 and 2017, and the property is assessed for $269,900.
Oare said Smullen has had a veterans tax exemption on his Johnstown property since 2009, and also used to have the New York State School Tax Relief (STAR) exemption on the Johnstown property, going back to 2009. That exemption was later turned into a tax credit program, and Oare said Smullen has not continued to receive a STAR benefit for the Johnstown home.
“When you’re in the military and stuff, you’re not home a lot, and in order to keep STAR on your property, you had to either call up or you had to send this mailing back in a certain time period, or they just went on this database and just removed people, statewide, and then you had to deal with [the state],” Oare said. “My guess is, they didn’t give us a list of people they took off, but he was just gone [from the STAR list], and I didn’t take him off. It was his responsibility to [take his STAR off] wherever he was.
“For me to put it on, he’d have to prove his residency. He does get the veteran’s exemption here.”
Officials from the New York state Office of Real Property said they have no record of Smullen currently receiving a STAR exemption for either his Johnstown or Niskayuna homes.
Smullen is a retired Marine Corps colonel, who until recently served as the executive director for the Hudson River Black River Regulating District.
Smullen’s residency has been called into question by his two potential opponents in the Republican Party primary for the 118th Assembly District: Patrick Vincent, of Cold Brook, owner of Vincent’s Heating and Fuel Service in Poland, and Philip Paige, of Madrid, who is the former St. Lawrence County assistant administrator.
Vincent said he thinks Smullen should drop out of the race because he either doesn’t really live in the 118th district, or he has taken a primary residence military tax exemption for multiple homes, one not in the district.
“I think it’s time for a true assessment of Mr. Smullen’s residency. He needs to really justify the whole question of ‘where are you located?’ with respect to residency in Schenectady County,” Vincent said. “He has claimed he lives in Fulton County, and he’s taking tax breaks on a property he doesn’t clearly live in … I think it’s time for an investigation to get final closure to this issue.”
Paige said he believes Smullen having received a primary residence military tax exemption for his property in Niskayuna in 2017 shows he does not meet the statutory requirements for residency in the 118th Assembly District.
“I think it’s pretty clear that his residency has not been established. I don’t think he’s a legitimate candidate for this election,” Paige said. “Even if he, hypothetically, says, ‘Well, I moved to Johnstown,’ the requirement is that you be a resident of the district 12 months prior, so if he’s taking 2018 tax credits on his [Niskayuna] house, I think that firmly establishes that as his residence.”
Smullen did not return multiple phone calls or a Facebook message seeking a comment.
In an interview with The Daily Gazette published on April 28, Smullen would not comment on where his wife and children reside. He said he owns multiple homes, but he has been registered to vote at his parents house, at 307 Willie Road in Johnstown, for years. He stated he does live in the 118th Assembly District.
“I live in the district; that’s all the matters,” he said in the April 28 interview. “The legal residential requirement is that I, citizen Robert Smullens, Col. U.S. Marine Corps., who has lived in seven states, who’s been to many countries, I have always lived within 3 miles of my home of record. That’s my commitment to the people of the District. My family lives there, when my family lives there.”
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