The Olean Times Herald article in Tuesday’s edition, “Vets’ Exemption Up for Discussion in A-L District,” has prompted me to examine my vacillation on the subject of veterans and school taxes.

I have done some thinking on the subject since reporter Kate Day Sager interviewed me for the article. It seems that this subject may be more complicated than it first seems.

Upon reflection, I realize that I am trying to serve two masters. First, there’s my loyalty to my fellow veterans and, second, there’s my responsibility as an elected official to all taxpayers. These two considerations are not readily compatible.

You must understand that my loyalty to those with whom I served in combat is intense, and that loyalty has evolved over the years to be inclusive of all veterans. Combatants or not, wartime or not, it makes no difference because they all have one thing in common: They held up their right hands and took the oath to defend our nation.

Therefore, if a benefit is offered to one, it must be offered to all.

With the first hurdle behind us, another arises. Should this additional benefit even be offered?

The considerations are such that the non-veteran must decide whether the benefit is warranted, and the veteran must decide if an additional cost to one’s neighbors is fair. The reality is that the tax levy on the school district will not decrease 1 cent. Therefore, if some receive exemptions, the total of those exemptions must be made up by the rest.  

Since some self-interest is involved for both, it becomes a matter of conscience all the way around. Hopefully, a degree of altruism will arise. The non-veteran must decide whether military and naval service warrant special consideration, and if it does, are they willing to bear the extra cost. Veterans must decide whether it is acceptable to cause an increase in their neighbors’ tax burden.

There is one more consideration that is germane to this issue.  We must weigh the importance and substance of the message we send to all future veterans.

I have tried to present the pertinent arguments for both options as we try to decide our course of action on this issue. I hope I have helped to clarify the options, but, ultimately, each of us must must make our own decision.

I trust that we will all live with the outcome with little or no acrimony.

(Mr. Edwards, who lives in Limestone, is a Cattaraugus County legislator.)

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