Medina votes against tax exemption for combat vets

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 10 February 2015 at 12:00 am

MEDINA – Combat and disabled veterans who served in wartime won’t get a discount on their Medina school taxes, the Board of Education voted tonight.

The board was considering offering the minimum tax exemption allowed by a new state law. That would have lowered the taxable assessments by $6,000 for veterans who served in wartime (World War I, World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam War, and Persian Gulf Conflict since Aug. 2, 1990). With $6,000 off the assessments that would save eligible veterans about $140 each.

But in a 5-2 vote, the board opted against the exemption with the majority not thinking it was fair to other school taxpayers who would see an increase in their taxes.

“Our duty is to all of the taxpayers,” said William Keppler, a Board of Education member. “We have to lower everyone’s taxes so all people see a savings.”

Keppler’s father served in World War II.

“I respect the vets,” Keppler said. “I love the vets.”

Board Vice President David Sevenski also opposed the exemption. He thought it was discriminatory towards some veterans, including those in the Cold War and those who are renters and don’t own their own homes.

“The law doesn’t treat all veterans equally,” Sevenski said.

Sevenski comes from a military family. His daughter leaves next week for the Marines. He would prefer to see tax relief for all residents.

“Our goal is to try to reduce the tax rate for everyone,” Sevenski said.

Several veterans attended a Jan. 14 public hearing about the exemption with most speaking in favor of it. Other community members worried about the tax shift, especially on lower-income young families.

The minimum tax exemption for veterans would have raised taxes by $32 for nonveterans for a property assessed at $100,000.

BOE President Chris Keller and board member Carol Heiligenthaler both voted for the exemption.

“I went with the idea that providing it for combat and disabled veterans was do-able in my mind,” Keller said after tonight’s meeting. “That’s a different category of citizen.”

Sevenski said the board wrestled with the issue. Medina is the first Board of Education in Orleans County to bring the exemption to a vote since the state passed a law in December 2013 allowing school districts to offer the exemption.

“Everyone lost sleep over this,” Sevenski said.