Thousands of county residents who served in the military but not in conventional wartime will qualify for a new property tax exemption adopted Tuesday by the county Board of Supervisors.
The board unanimously adopted the new Cold War exemption, available to people who were on active duty during the era of armed tension between the United States and the Soviet Union and other communist countries.
The state law allowing local governments to offer the exemption defines the period as being between Sept. 2, 1945, the end of World War II, and Dec. 26, 1991, after the fall of the Soviet communist empire.
Eligible veterans can receive a 15 percent exemption on their county property taxes up to a maximum of $12,000 in property value. It can be for up to $40,000 if the veteran has a service-related disability.
That is 10 percent of the exemption people with military disabilities due to combat service in “hot” conflicts such as World War II, Korea, Vietnam and Iraq qualify for.
The exemption doesn’t apply to local school taxes, which for most property owners is their highest tax.
At a public hearing last week, several veterans spoke in favor of the exemption.
“I don’t think a lot of people realize how much went into the Cold War,” said 35-year veteran Jim Coyne of Saratoga Springs.
“There was a lot of tension in that time,” said Gene Ratigliano, commander of the Gurtler Bros. VFW Post in Saratoga Springs, who said his members favor the legislation. “Regardless of what service you were in, you were involved in Cold war operations.”
Because the exemption is small, it is expected to have a negligible impact on the tax bills of non-veterans.
“I think it’s the principle of the matter,” county Veterans Committee Chairman Philip C. Barrett, R-Clifton Park, said when the legislation was introduced. “Anything that’s out there, I think we should offer to our veterans.”
The Clifton Park Town Board has approved the exemption at the town level, and the Saratoga Springs City Council was to vote on offering it on city taxes Tuesday night.
Other communities across the Capital Region are in the process of discussing or authorizing the exemption, which was made available under a new state law last year. Fulton County has already adopted it.
Veterans of the Cold War served at a time of high military tensions, though not of actual fighting. Until now, veterans’ tax exemptions have been only for those who served in wartime.
The Cold War was a period when a large number of American troops were stationed in Europe against the threat of a Soviet invasion, and others served in non-combat stations throughout the world. Both the U.S. and Russia kept a large array of nuclear weapons with which to threaten the other.
Veterans who served in wars during that era, including Korea and Vietnam, qualify for a higher exemption but can’t also receive the Cold War exemption.
Currently, there are about 19,000 veterans living in Saratoga County. About 9,000 of them currently have an exemption based on their time of service, said Carol Holley, the county’s real property tax services director.
Holley said many veterans who don’t have an exemption now will qualify for the Cold War exemption, but not all will, because some don’t own property or they may have served after the 1991 cutoff date.
The state will provide the application form and local assessors will administer the exemption. The law takes affect July 1 but probably won’t have practical effect until the next time exemption applications are due, March 1, 2009.