By Krystle S. Morey
and Matthew Saari
Following a brief public hearing, the Granville Town Board voted to extend tax exemptions for Cold War veterans indefinitely.
New York offered the tax break to Cold War veterans for the last decade. The exemption, which offered discounted property taxes for eligible veterans, is set to expire after the 10 year cap.
“We are nearing the sunset of that law,” said town attorney Michael Catalfimo. “The state Legislature has said, ‘Hey, this is a good thing; why don’t we give local governments the option to continue it indefinitely.’”
The board voted 5-0 to extend the exemption, as long as the qualified veteran remains the owner of the property.
To override the expiration date and continue the availability of the tax break, the board had to pass a local law that amends the town’s current law.
“We – as a town, county, etcetera – have the opportunity to extend that indefinitely, or do nothing, and the Cold War veterans’ exemption disappears forever,” Supervisor Matt Hicks said before the public hearing on Dec. 14.
At the hearing, a pair of local veterans spoke up in favor of extending the exemption.
Marvin Hawk, a Granville resident and Cold War veteran, didn’t know he was eligible for the tax break. After learning about it at the meeting, he said he would sign up.
“I would thank the town for extending it,” Hawk said before the board’s vote.
“A lot of us served during what was considered the Cold War, in my case in 1983 in Beirut, came home with a lot of survivor guilt issues and found that all of the doors were locked to us,” he added. “It’s nice to finally get some recognition for the service; granted, most of us didn’t ever see bullets fly; I never did, but some boys did.”
“We were on the lines,” Hawk said. “We weren’t called on for major battles or major wars, but we were ready.”
Ernest Wood, another Cold War veteran living in Granville, was also in favor of the town’s extending the exemption.
“I am a Vietnam veteran,” he said, “and I did see bullets fly.”
Wood tried to apply for the exemption after hearing about it last year, but he missed the deadline and the tax break was set to expire.
“I would like to see it extended also,” Wood said before the vote.
What about Whitehall?
Neither the town nor village of Whitehall made mention of extending the Cold War veteran exemption during their December meetings because neither taxing authority currently participates in the exemption.
Given that the Cold War veteran tax exemption went into effect a decade ago, no one is 100 percent sure why this is but the consensus is a miscommunication between Whitehall government and Washington County.
“Probably no one approached the town or village,” said Bruce Caza who, as town assessor, is responsible for approving or denying all exemptions in Whitehall.
However, being that Caza was appointed Whitehall assessor in 2015, seven years after the exemption originally took effect, any explanation he proposes remains only speculation.
“I don’t have an answer,” he said. “It was implemented before I was appointed.”
For the village’s part, Mayor Phil Smith was only alerted to the existence of such an exemption when the Times interviewed him, asking his stance on the exemption and whether he would be fin favor of getting the village onboard.
“I couldn’t make a commitment to that,” he said. “This is the first I’m hearing about it and I would need to learn more about it before I could make a decision.”
Pat Norton was mayor in 2008, when the exemption originally took effect. She said she cannot recall receiving any notice or communication alerting the village to the existence of the exemption.
“The county never asked us to do anything with it,” she said. “I don’t think we were ever notified; there had to be some kind of breakdown in communication between the village and the county.”
Out in the town, Vernon Scribner was supervisor in 2008. Like Norton, he said he can’t recall any particulars with regard to the Cold War vet exemption.
“I vaguely recall it but I don’t remember what it was all about,” he said. “I couldn’t really comment on it.”
Scribner continued: “So much goes on unless it was really outstanding it’s hard to remember.”
The only documentation Scribner could find dating back to 2008 pertained to the Alternative Veteran Tax Exemption, which only applies to veterans who served during a designated time of war.
Newly-elected supervisor John Rozell said approving the Cold War exemption for this year isn’t going to happen because the town board must approve the exemption 60 days before the taxable status/exemption filing date which is in April.
“We don’t have time to do it this year,” Rozell said. “But it is on my list to have approved for next year.

 

Who’s eligible and how to apply:

Eligible veterans would have served between Sept. 2, 1945 through Dec. 26, 1991.
The exemption allows for a 10 or 15 percent reduction in the assessed value of a property which would affect village, town and county taxes – special taxing districts are unaffected, said Laura Chadwick, director of Washington County’s Real Property Tax Service.
Because the Village of Granville is part of the town, Cold War veterans living in the village are also eligible for breaks on their village taxes.
Washington County voted at its December meeting to also extend the exemption indefinitely.
Additionally, some school districts may participate. Granville Central School District does not participate.
To qualify for the exemption the property deed must be in the name of the veteran, his/her spouse or his/her surviving, un-remarried spouse; the property must be intended for residential use only; and the property must be the primary residence for the veteran.
The Cold War exemption is not applied automatically, it must be applied for.
Once an application is accepted, it is applied to the following tax year and will remain in effect for the duration of the property owner’s ownership.
Granville residents who would like to apply for the exemption should visit the Granville Town Office on Main Street.

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