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Letter to the Editor: Clergy Tax Exemptions Cost Us All

A loose application of the law allows some people to not pay taxes, letter writer says.

This letter was submitted to the editor by Cary Brozik of Woodmere.

Under New York State Real Property Law 460, clergy can apply for a $1,500 exemption on his/her private property owned anywhere in the state.

The exemption is applicable to both general town and county taxes as well as school taxes, making its application broader and more generous than that for volunteer firefighters or veterans, neither of which is applicable to school taxes.

The problem with this exemption is that the manner in which it is applied in Nassau County results in exemptions vastly greater than the $1,500 written into the law. As the exemption is applied “against the assessment,” not as a reduction of the tax bill, in jurisdictions where property is assessed at full market value the exemption’s value is $1,500.

But, in Nassau County, a .25 percent equalization rate is applied to the full market value to obtain the “taxable assessment.” This “taxable assessment” is thus lowered to a point that many, maybe most, homes are assessed below $1,500. Applying the $1,500 Clergy/Minister Exemption against these lowered assessments results in little or no school tax due.

The result for Hewlett-Woodmere School District taxpayers is that for the current tax year there are 42 clergy/minister exemptions ranging from $7,272.20 to $14,983.92. The average exemption is $12,153.88. A total of $510,463 in school taxes is thus shifted to other taxpayers in this district. Of the 42 exempted properties, 34 will pay NO school taxes. Other tax payers are paying those taxes.

In addition, $68,989 in general town/county taxes are also exempted. These exempted taxes are also passed on to other taxpayers in our school district, town, and county. The clergy/minister exemption does not prevent a property owner from also having a Basic STAR exemption if they qualify.

The impact of this problem extends to all school districts in the county. There are over 67 such exemptions in neighboring School District 15, and 608 total in the county.

This is more than unfair, it is outrageous, and our political leadership at the town, county, and state levels must stop this unintended, windfall giveaway. There are possible solutions:

  1. Rescind the law.
  2. Clarify wording such that the exemption of $1,500 is to be applied to the final tax bill, not the assessment.
  3. The county must go to full market assessment.

Whatever the solution, a minority of property owners cannot continue to avoid paying their fair share of property taxes year after year. Property owners should pay their property taxes, not other people’s property taxes.

Bojames September 06, 2012 at 01:34 PM
Call your County and State reps and tell them what you feel. Write to clergyexemption@gmail.com for more information.
abraham September 06, 2012 at 06:15 PM
Where can you get the specific people getting the exemption?
Bojames September 06, 2012 at 10:39 PM
...write to clergyexemption@gmail.com or write to the County Assessor.
Frank September 07, 2012 at 02:16 PM
@ Bojames: try half of Old Mill Court. It's like shooting fish in a barrel.
Frank November 20, 2012 at 07:03 PM
How do you expect clergy to live in a town that has taxes over $15,000 and they make under $50,000. The basic idea for the exemption is to assist clergy to live in high tax and high property cost areas. Could a priest afford to live in Beverly Hills without breaks? Would it be better for the church to buy the house and no taxes be paid either?

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