School Tax Relief for Vets
A standing ovation erupted through the Yonkers City Council chamber when on February 25th, the Council passed a bill sponsored by Council President Liam J. McLaughlin that expanded the alternative veteran’s property tax exemption. The bill, which was McLaughlin’s first local law since becoming Council President, passed unanimously, and makes Yonkers the first community in Westchester and the major city in the state to offer this benefit, and was supported by representatives from sixteen of Yonkers veterans organizations who are pictured above.
YONKERS, NY – The City of Yonkers became the first major city in New York State last week to offer a school tax exemption for veterans, since Governor Cuomo signed the law authorizing the local option in December. City Council President Liam J. McLaughlin sponsored the bill, which added school taxes to the alternative veteran’s property tax exemption offered by the City.
“I think I speak for many people when I say we are in awe of what our veterans did, putting their lives on the line for this country,” McLaughlin said. “I’m very proud that my first local law as Council President is one that can help this City show that we love and respect our veterans, and provide needed tax relief to those who both need and deserve it the most.”
Council President McLaughlin immediately signed the law, making Yonkers the first community in Westchester to provide this benefit to veterans. “I hope other communities throughout the state will follow Yonkers lead in passing tax relief for veterans,” he said.
“My father was a Marine who instilled in us the value that it is not enough to simply think of veterans on Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day,” Mayor Mike Spano said. “Rather, we should thank and honor those brave men and women who selflessly served our country year round. This bill is a small token in that effort, and I thank Council President McLaughlin for sponsoring it.”
Following passage of a law by the state legislature in December, the City was given the opportunity to offer the school tax exemption as part of the existing 458-a veteran’s alternative property tax exemption. Over 1,200 veterans, many of whom are disabled and live on fixed incomes, utilize the existing exemption, which previously only applied to school taxes.
Majority Leader John Larkin said, “I often see how people will praise and thank veterans on Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day. This bill is a way for the Council to prove that we believe what we say and that what we say is what we do. In this instance it’s a small gesture, but it’s a gesture that says to our veterans that we appreciate their sacrifice in keeping our country safe and free.”
The alternative property tax exemption includes a 15 percent reduced in assessment value for veterans who served during a time of war, an additional 10 percent for those who were in combat zones, plus another additional reduction for veterans with a disability rating from the VA and will now apply to both municipal and school taxes following passage of McLaughlin’s bill. These are the maximum allowable by law. The City also has opted-in to the special Cold War Veterans property tax exemption as well the one for Gold Star families.
John Spencer, former mayor and chairman of the Central Committee of Veterans Organizations in Yonkers, said that Yonkers has led the way as a municipality by passing this enabling legislation from the State to help veterans. “I give Council President McLaughlin so much credit, because if you want to talk about revenue and expenses, our veterans wrote a blank check to the United States for a price up to and including their lives,” he said.
“That’s who you’re helping with this,” Spencer said. “On behalf of all the veterans I represent as the chairman of the central committee of sixteen organizations, we admire the City Council for its courage in passing this. They are doing the right thing for the veterans of this city.
Minority Leader Michael Sabatino said, “What amazes me is that for those who have fought in battle, most of them never feel compelled to actually complain about what they have gone through. That is very admirable, and this bill is a small token showing the Council’s and the City’s appreciation for their service.”
Councilmember Christopher Johnson said, “I am excited that we get an opportunity as a Council to do something meaningful for our veterans. While it is something simple, it goes a long way in recognizing their service. This is not about money, it is about acknowledging the commitment and sacrifice of our brave veterans.”
Councilmember Corazon Pineda said, “This bill shows our veterans that we appreciate the work that you’ve done for us and your sacrifice. This is just a small token of appreciation where we as a Council can have a direct impact on your lives and say thank you for your service to our country.”
Councilmember Dennis Shepherd said, “When I think about veterans, I cannot think of a more courageous, modest group of individuals. We should thank them each and every day from the bottom of our hearts for stepping up to the plate for us. This bill is a small way for the City Council to step up for them.”
Councilmember Mike Breen said, “This bill is giving veterans a rebate on all that they sacrificed when they could have been stateside, working at a job that provided more of a normal income. Hopefully it will convince even more veterans to move to Yonkers.”
The bill passed the Council by a unanimous 7-0 vote. Louis Navarro, director of the Yonkers Veterans Service Agency, said “On behalf of the veterans of the City of Yonkers, I want to speak on their behalf in thanking both our Republicans and Democrats for taking such a courageous step.”
Current and former service members who are interested in applying for the veteran’s alternative tax exemption must file an application with the city assessor. For more information on this and other veterans programs, contact the Yonkers Department of Veteran’s Affairs at (914) 377 – 6700.
SOURCE: Communications Office of Yonkers City Council President Liam McLaughlin,