After negotiation with Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration, the NYC Council announced today that the Fiscal Year 2018 Budget is now finalized.
Earlier this year we set a Spring Agenda that included protecting and increasing NYC's budget for veterans, and adoption of a needed exemption from rising school taxes for veteran homeowners. We're both proud and grateful to our members and allies who helped us achieve results for our community.
Take a look at what's in the new budget for veterans, which will take effect on July 1, 2017:
Alternative (School Tax) Exemption for Veteran Homeowners
Thanks to sustained advocacy—especially by our proud member, Vietnam veteran, and longtime advocate Lee Covino—and the leadership of Minority Leader Steven Matteo, a deal was reached with Mayor de Blasio to include a long-overdue exemption from ballooning school taxes for veteran homeowners. Highlights of the deal that was reached include:
Caps on Maximum Allowable Exemption
The amount budgeted by NYC Council earlier this year for the fully-implemented school tax exemption in FY 2018 was $41 million. The final amount adopted in the FY 2018 is $25 million, which represents a cost reduction resulting from caps in the maximum allowable amount exempted. The average annual tax reduction per household will be $595, with a maximum additional benefit of $1,157.
The NYC Veterans Alliance stated in today's hearing concern that these caps may limit the exemption in the face of rapidly rising school taxes; the response from NYC Council is that the caps are designed to rise in proportion to increases in school taxes. While not ideal, these limitations were a critical deciding factor in the inclusion of the exemption in this year's budget.
The exemption will go into effect on July 1, 2017. Veteran homeowners who already signed up for the Alternative Tax Exemption by March 15 of this year will be able to claim exemption from school taxes on their tax bill for the entire fiscal year.
Veteran homeowners not currently signed up, but who meet eligibility criteria for the Alternative Tax Exemption and apply before March 15, 2018, will be able to take advantage of the exemption from school taxes for fiscal year 2019.
Learn more and apply for the Alternative Tax Exemption HERE.
Another compromise to reach a final deal on the exemption is the expiration or sunset date of June 30, 2022. This can be seen as a limitation to the exemption, but it also represents an opportunity for renegotiation of the limits going into effect this year. If our community can show maximum participation and that tax savings are going back into our local economy—and if we keep holding our public officials accountable--we could have another larger win in five years.
Final Passage of Intro. 1304A and Preconsidered Intro.
Following the deal to include the Alternative Exemption in the FY 2018 Budget, additional wording specifying the maximum exemption caps and sunset must be added to legislation passed to put this into effect. A public hearing on the full bill wording was held this morning, and passage is expected sometime next week.
NYC Department of Veterans’ Services (DVS) Budget
Earlier this year, we let our community know about the Mayor’s initial budget proposal that reduce funding for DVS to $3.6 million (a cut of $300k from last year’s budget) in a post that was viewed by more than 30,000 concerned citizens—spurring outrage and action. Thanks to those who rallied and lobbied with us, calling upon city officials to do better for veterans—we succeeded in securing an increase in funding for DVS in the agency’s second full year of funding.
The final adopted FY 2018 Budget for DVS is $4.4 million, which offers DVS’s newly formed team to continue building and organizing structures to support the needs of our city’s veterans, servicemembers, and their families. Budget highlights include:
Of DVS’s 35 specified staff positions, 13 of them appear on average above $100,000 in annual compensation for full-time employment. It isn’t unreasonable for a new agency seeking to attract top talent for key positions, but it is worth noting that this salary range places 1/3 of agency staff among the top-earning 11% of NYC government employees according to the most recent NYC Workforce Profile Report.
It was noted in the New York Post last October that Commissioner Sutton was the #2 top paid special assistant appointed by Mayor de Blasio. According to SeeThroughNY, Commissioner Sutton’s 2016 salary was $205,868. By comparison, Daniel Nigro earned $217k as FDNY Commissioner last year, overseeing the operations of more than 14,000 firefighters, medical responders, and inspectors.
High-end salaries reflect a high level of commitment to recruiting and retaining top talent to serve NYC’s veterans. We encourage our community to expect these high-performers to bring leading-edge knowledge and expertise to establish top-level programs, processes, and systems, and to produce tangible, lasting results for our city’s veterans, military members, and their families in the months and years to come.
NY Serves is a digital platform designed as a clearinghouse to provide phone and online referrals for veterans and families to organizations who can offer the help they are looking for. NY Serves is currently administered by Northwell Health. Last year the city budgeted $116k as part of its effort to maintain NY Serves and begin integrating it into DVS under a program called VetConnectNYC. This year the line cost of VetConnectNYC is $370k, plus an additional $514k for services related to its implementation—bringing the total cost for FY 2018 to $884k.
NY Serves has served more than 2,000 individuals since its launch in January 2015, an average rate of approximately 90 per month. We hope to see an expansion of NY Serves under the banner of VetConnectNYC to reach even more veterans and families. We also hope to see VetConnectNYC synchronized with the current tracking and management of the cases of veterans receiving help and referrals directly from DVS outreach coordinators and VA-certified benefits counselors who work in all five boroughs.
We hope to soon see clear data from DVS on the number of veterans served both by DVS staff and by NY Serves / VetConnectNYC, similar to the reporting requirements passed in early 2015 for HRA, DHS, and other City agencies serving veterans. Trends in services needed, referrals to agencies and programs across NYC and NYS government and non-governmental organizations, demographics of veterans and families served, length of time it takes for individuals to have their cases reach resolution, and trends in ultimate outcomes--these would all be vital data points not only to measure the effectiveness of government services, but also for service providers across the NYC Metro area to better understand the needs and capabilities of our support network for veterans, military members, and families.
If you're a veteran, military member, or family member who needs assistance with veterans benefits or services, or if you have a question about city programs and policies for veterans, call DVS at 212-416-5250 or dial 311.
We've helped to protect and grow NYC's budget for veterans, and to ensure NYC's veteran homeowners receive long-overdue tax relief. Let's continue to expect the best in increased access to services, benefits, and information--and measurable positive outcomes--for our veterans, military members, and their families in the upcoming fiscal year.