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Opinion: Abatements Offer Welcomed Incentives

Written By Editor on 2/24/14 | 2/24/14

     Schoharie County Supervisors voted solidly Friday afternoon to approve two local laws that offer generous tax assessment exemptions to first time home-buyer construction and specific home improvements. Good, it was the right decision - as Mr. Milone has argued for months - nothing bad can come from offering these incentives. 

      If just one family decides to move into Schoharie County because of them; and they build a new home, enroll their children in local schools, and help fuel the economy, the abatements can be deemed a success. While growing the struggling tax base is their primary reason for implementation, encouraging young families to settle in county is at the heart of the issue. 

     Take for instance the editor of this publication. Although I am currently renting and getting by paycheck to paycheck, my intention is to one day purchase or build my own home. And the exemptions adopted last week give me hope of that home being located one day in Schoharie County, with a head start from my community to ultimately succeed.

     Consider how the abatements work: if you choose to purchase a plot of land and build your own house, the assessed value of that construction will be halved that first year and will gradually be brought up over five years. The effect will be not only the increased value of that property, but the expansion of the local tax base.

     It would afford young families the opportunity to build their dream home without facing the burden of significant taxation right out the gate. That in itself is a noble cause, but the law's side effect of potentially bringing in fresh, economically vibrant blood is the true upside to abatements, if they take a foothold.

     Local schools are facing significant challenges from declining enrollment, and small towns are lopsidedly aging without the next generation there to fill the void fifteen, twenty years from now. These exemptions have the potential to both draw in young people to take a chance in Schoharie County, and to keep them here - as in my case - to settle permanently. 

     Of course, we will only be able to examine whether abatements result in increased residential construction when the three year sign-up period lapses in 2016 and they sunset entirely in 2021, but even if they fail to meet a majority of the county board's expectations... At least they tried, and they weren't afraid to explore new paths to make our community better.
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