Veterans groups in Ohio get a big property tax break
Springfield News-Sun, Ohio
SPRINGFIELD, Ohio — For the commander of Clark County’s largest Veterans of Foreign Wars post, a change in state law this summer exempting posts like his from property taxes means they’ll be able to increase support to the family readiness groups of local National Guard units, whose soldiers and airmen are deployed overseas.
For the commander of a Springfield AMVETS post, the new tax break for posts of veterans’ service organizations frees up money to replace more tattered American flags.
Those are the reasons Gov. John Kasich largely exempted veterans’ groups from paying property taxes in Ohio’s two-year budget signed into law on June 30.
“This will allow our posts to focus more on giving back to the state of Ohio and assisting veterans,” said Patrick Atkinson, department finance officer for the American Legion of Ohio.
It’s hoped that by providing tax relief to posts of veterans’ service organizations, according to the Ohio Department of Veterans Services, they’ll be able to do more charity work.
Until now, posts around the state have had to pay property taxes if they made more than $10,000 annually from rental or other income.
In a good year, VFW Post 1031 in Springfield might earn $15,000 from renting its East Main Street hall for wedding receptions and other events, said Jerry Heck, post commander.
That’s subjected the post to an annual property tax bill of $12,000, he said.
With the change in law, posts will be able to make up to $36,000 a year before being subject to property taxes, and only rental income will count toward that amount.
“That will make a big difference for us,” Heck said.
The move represents a legislative win for the American Legion, VFW and AMVETS, which combined efforts to request the change.
“We’d been pushing for this for several years,” said Atkinson, at the Legion’s state headquarters in Delaware.
Posts that already qualify as exempt from federal income tax will have to register with their county auditors to receive the new property tax exemption.
Sam Pierce, commander of AMVETS Post 25 in Springfield, recently picked up the paperwork that should save his post from its estimated $12,000 annual property tax bill.
Post 25 owns five parcels on Kenton Street.
“It’s not that we just waste money,” said Pierce, a Navy veteran who ran supply boats up and down Vietnam’s rivers. “We put it to good use. This will help us to do things for vets in need.”
Post 25, Pierce said, performs service work at the Dayton VA Medical Center and has provided meals at the Ohio Veterans Home, a nursing home that opened in 2003 in Brown County, near Cincinnati.
The post also replaces 100 to 150 worn-out American flags locally each year. If a post member spots a tattered flag, they’ll give the owner a new flag, Pierce said.
He said he just bought 36 new flags at a cost of $400.
“They’re not cheap,” Pierce said. “But they’re American made.”
Close to 90 percent of the money made by VFW Post 1031 from its charitable gaming operation stays locally, said Heck, who served with the Air Force in Korea in the early 1960s, then served 26 years in the Ohio Army National Guard.
“We’re like any other small business,” he said. “Every little bit helps.”
When the Springfield-based 371st Sustainment Brigade of the Ohio Army National Guard was getting ready to deploy close to 300 soldiers to Kuwait this year, the unit wanted to hold a big luncheon.
“The 371st has got a lot of people,” Heck said, adding that Post 1031 gave $2,000 toward the luncheon.
“I don’t think I’ve ever said no to any of them,” he added.
With little more than 1,000 total members, Post 1031 is the largest veterans’ organization in Clark County, Heck said.
“I’m constantly getting requests from Little League teams and high school programs,” he said.
The American Legion, which has close to 115,000 members and 600 posts in Ohio, believes its charitable work helps ease the strain on state, county and local governments.
For starters, they’re helping veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan readjust to their communities.
“We’ve got thousands of veterans in the state who need help transitioning,” said Atkinson, himself a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan with the Army’s 3rd Ranger Battalion.
“The state can’t touch what we’re able to do with the small amount of money we do it with,” he said. “Giving us this break on property taxes allows us to further our mission in the state.”
Atkinson was unsure how much Legion posts in Ohio will collectively save, because some posts don’t own property.
But, to his knowledge, no local governments came out against the exemption for fear of losing tax revenue.
“At least not to our face,” he said.