Veteran speaks up at BOE meeting, advocates for tax exemption

Cady Kuzmich/Gazette Reporter
Alan and Neva Atwell, of Clifton Park, recently celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary.Cady Kuzmich/Gazette Reporter Alan and Neva Atwell, of Clifton Park, recently celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary.

By Cady Kuzmich
Gazette Reporter

Clifton Park — Allan Atwell, a 91 year old WWII veteran from Clifton Park, spoke up in favor of a veteran’s tax exemption during a public comment period at Shenendehowa’s latest board of education meeting Tuesday September 13.

When Atwell was still a teenager, he fought in the Battle of the Bulge with the 28th Division. “It was the worst winter in decades,” he recalled in a previous interview with The Daily Gazette. He later returned stateside and married his sweetheart Neva. The two have been married for 70 years and raised five children who all attended Shenendehowa.

Atwell walked up to the microphone without his cane. “This is the first time I’ve appeared in public without my cane,” he said.

After briefly describing his service and his children’s experience at Shenendehowa, Atwell asked, “Are you waiting for a veteran to bring this to a head?”

Frank DeSorbo, the president of the Patriot Flight, addressed the board after Atwell. The Patriot Flight is a non profit organization devoted to honoring the sacrifice and service of veterans. The group organizes an annual flight from Albany to Washington D.C. each year for veterans to visit memorials free of charge.

DeSorbo said the phrase “veteran’s tax exemption” can be misleading. Instead, he urged the board to consider it as a “combat veteran tax reassessment.” According to DeSorbo, the state has allowed schools to adopt the exemption on a district by district basis since 2013.

“I am not a veteran. You all know veterans. You all have family members who are veterans. Those kind of people really deserve a break,” said DeSorbo.

DeSorbo noted that without the veteran’s tax exemption, Shenendehowa’s school district is a less appealing place for veterans to live. “Many other districts have adopted this. Niskayuna did a great job,” he added.

The school board did not respond immediately to any individual comments made during the public comment period.

Shenendehowa’s Superintendent, Dr. Oliver Robinson, told Your Clifton Park “The Board of Education reviewed the requirements of the exemption a few years ago when it was first authorized. At that point, no board action was taken. The board will be reviewing the law again in October. The intent is to merely review the law and the implications. No action is slated for that Study Session meeting on this particular matter.”

Robinson added, “It is important to note that the Law is merely a redistribution of the tax burden from potentially eligible combat-veterans to non-combat veterans. Non-veteran taxpayers would see an increase in taxes as a result of the redistribution of the exempted amount. There are no incentives provided by the New York State to implement this exemption, no additional funds afforded the district to do so.”

Dozens of veterans gathered to advocate for the tax exemption in Duanesburg earlier this summer.