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Some Amsterdam veterans will have to wait for school tax exemption

Some Amsterdam veterans will have to wait for school tax exemption

Outlying towns update property rolls later in year
Some Amsterdam veterans will have to wait for school tax exemption
Amsterdam High School Marine Corps Junior ROTC cadets raise the American flag in 2013.
Photographer: Daily Gazette file photo

Military veterans who live in outlying towns of the Greater Amsterdam School District will have to wait until next year to receive a new tax break, while veterans in the city start enjoying the savings this year.

The school board approved the alternative veterans exemption in May 2016, granting a break to wartime-era military veterans throughout the district. But since the district’s outlying towns — seven in all — finalize their tax rolls later in the year than the city does, the tax savings take effect earlier for some district veterans than others.

Patricia Prill, Montgomery County veterans services officer and director of the county veterans agency, said she received a few — “not even a handful” — of inquiries from Amsterdam school district veterans curious about why they weren’t receiving the tax break this year.

Citing tax law, Prill said the board’s adoption of the tax exemption happened after the city’s rolls were updated — in time for school taxes — but before the towns’ rolls were updated.

“That’s how it is, and there’s not much that can be done … it’s unfortunate,” Prill said. “Unfortunately, I have to revert to real property tax law” in explaining why some veterans have to wait another year for the break.

Each year, the city updates its property tax rolls by Dec. 1; the towns update theirs by March 1.

While Frasier said she didn’t discuss the timing of updated tax rolls and the veterans exemption with district officials prior to the board’s approval of the tax break, the district has been levying taxes using the differently-timed tax rolls for at least 20 years. So each year, city residents pay taxes based on the updated tax rolls, while residents of the towns pay based on the previous year’s rolls.

“That’s how everything is for the school; they are always using a prior-year roll for everything but the city,” Frasier said.

Ann Phelps, the district’s treasurer and tax collector, said veterans in the outlying towns would get the tax break starting with next year’s school taxes, “because the town’s assessment rolls become finalized and filed … after the school apportionment has been completed and tax bills mailed.”

District officials were aware that the veterans would start receiving the break at different times, depending on where they lived, and communicated that at a board meeting, Amsterdam school spokeswoman Alissa Scott said.

Robert Tatlock, a resident of the town of Florida for more than 40 years, said he was surprised when his tax bill this year didn’t include the veterans exemption, which he was expecting to start this year. He said he was left unsatisfied with answers from the district and faulted school officials for not better communicating how the tax break would phase-in over two years.

“We all pay into Amsterdam school taxes,” Tatlock said. “It just doesn’t make any sense.”

Amsterdam School Board President Nellie Bush said the board was focused on getting the exemption in place, but she added that the board doesn't have complete control over the details of how it is implemented once approved.

"I'm very glad that we did pass it, and you have to follow the proper procedure, and sometimes that can be very frustrating,” Bush said.  

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