Smithtown’s School Board Got it Right
As noted by Mr. Colletta on his letter to the editor on December 10th I was the only veteran who opposes the adoption of the Alternative Veteran’s Exemption and I do so on many levels. As person who became a veteran by being drafted and having my military occupation specialty of light weapons infantry I guess I have as good a reason to ask for a little more as anyone but in fact I do not. As a member of this community for over thirty-five years I feel it is neither the time nor our school boards responsibility to raise taxes on the majority of our residents. As many families are still trying to dig themselves of the worst economic recession since the 1930’s is now the time to hit then with another tax increase? I think not. Also, if our elected officials in Albany, who we compensate with both a paycheck and daily expenses can not take the time to find the money to pay for legislation then maybe they don’t deserve carry the banner of “We Support Our Veterans”.
But wait, our representatives in Albany really would have a problem with using state money of pay for a school tax exemption. Their problem would be that stems for the fact that since 2010 to balance their budgets Albany has reduced our state school aid by over twenty million dollars. So I think they would have a major political problem if they continue to short change our children while paying for this tax exemption. And what a burden our legislature has placed on our school board. With reduced state aid our school board had to make some very hard decisions on what programs to cut so our budget targets could be met. In addition, our state legislature continues to leave in place laws governing public workers unions that make it almost imposable to negotiate contracts that reflect the realities of the hard economic times we have all been through.
The other evening many of the speakers noted that many of the veterans in the community are retired as I am. As I mentioned the other evening, if a member of the community is over 65 and of limited income they can apply for a state sponsored program that could cut their entire real estate tax rate by over half. All it takes, similar to the star programs, is filling out a form and showing your adjusted gross income is below $37,400. Now that is real tax assistance in place today and funded by the state.
Now as the only veteran who spoke against the this exemption I find it odd that for the past six years I am one of the only veterans who has taken the time to attend many of our school board meetings and lend support to those who fight to both control spending as well as improve the learning experience for our students. In addition, I have been a volunteer to a number of our high school clubs that support both business and technology competitions. I guess that old concept of “don’t ask what your country can do for you but what can you do for your country” still resonates with me. I wish more of my brother and sister veterans would do so as well so they would be a little more objective when it comes to our schools and the people who support them.
With great respect to this community,