Thursday, November 26, 2009

By David Robinson
The Evening Times
Fri Nov 20, 2009, 04:47 PM EST

Frankfort, N.Y. -

A small group of residents attended a public hearing Tuesday in the town of Frankfort to witness passage of a local law on tax exemption for military veterans.
But this law signified much more than a tax break.

It served as long-overdue recognition of a forgotten group of men and women that served in the U.S. Armed Forces.

Town board members voted to approve a limited tax exemption to veterans of the Cold War, defined as Sept. 2, 1945 to Dec. 26, 1991.

After the vote, the seven men applauded in appreciation.
The Frankfort law allows eligible residents exemption from town taxes up to 10 percent of the assessed value of their home, or up to $8,000 in equalized value. Those with disability claims can receive up to 50 percent of the assessed value of their home, not to exceed $40,000.

The exemption becomes effective on the 2010 final assessment roll, officials said.
While the money saved could provide much-needed relief in these difficult economic times, some of the men spoke to the law’s impact beyond just dollars and cents.
“It’s about more than the money,” said John Tucker, of Frankfort, “it’s about making sure the veterans feel like real veterans.”

Several of the men joined Tucker in describing years of being kept from joining groups or being ineligible for certain benefits because they had served in the military during a time not officially classified as a period of war.

It takes a program like the Cold War tax exemption, they said, to start changing people’s attitudes. But like most changes in public perception it is catching on slowly, and many of those that benefit are simply unaware.

The town of Frankfort became just the fourth municipality in Herkimer County, joining the city of Little Falls, village of Ilion and town of Schuyler, to adopt some form of the Cold War exemption.

The city of Little Falls passed a resolution on Nov. 17, 2007, becoming the first municipality in the county to adopt the Cold War exemption, according to Joy Presta, city assessor. For 2009, 10 veterans are currently receiving the exemption at a total equalized value of $66,119, she added.

The county also offers the program, with 75 residents receiving exemptions from county taxes with a total value of $612,004, after multiplying by the latest state equalization rate, according to Mary Ann Barbuto, county Real Property Tax Service Agency director.

There are still Cold War veterans that have no knowledge of the program, however.
When asked if they were aware of the county exemption, several of the men attending Frankfort’s public hearing said they had not heard about the county offering the tax break.

The town of Frankfort does have 10 people signed up for county Cold War exemption benefits and two residents that receive the benefits through the village of Ilion, according to Jim Fresco, town assessor.

Several of those in attendance at Tuesday’s meeting gave Fresco contact information, anticipating to submit an application for the county and town tax exemptions.
Tucker feels getting more information to the public is the first step, but making sure more municipalities adopt some form of the resolution is the ultimate goal.
“Hopefully we’ll all get on board in this county,” he said.

Mary Ann Barbuto, county Real Property Tax Service Agency director, provided some details on the Cold War exemption, as well as the Alternate Veterans exemption.
•Each county, city, town and village has the option of deciding whether to grant the Cold War veterans exemption.

• he Cold War exemption authorizes limited exemption from real property taxes for those who rendered military service to the United States during the Cold War (defined as Sept. 2, 1945 to Dec. 26, 1991).

•A veteran can not receive both the Cold War exemption and the Alternative Veterans exemption.

•The maximum levels from county taxes on the Cold War program are the reduced 15 percent, which equals a maximum $9,000 for service and maximum $30,000 for disability, both real values accounting for state equalization rates.

•The veteran must have been honorably discharged or released from service. As proof of the dates and character of service, a copy of Form DD 214 or other appropriate evidence should be attached to the application