September 17, 2019 by ALAN RIZZO Editor
Town resident raising funds to support WWI Memorial Project in Washington
Town of Tonawanda resident and Navy veteran Derek Sansone, a member of the Milton J. Brounshidle American Legion Post 205, is on a mission to make the National World War I Memorial a reality.
To do so, he is holding local fundraisers to support construction of the memorial. Sansone, who does not have a relative who served in the war, said he was motivated to support the cause due to his love of American history and his status as a military veteran.
“I think when you put those two things together you have an appreciation for what previous generations did to help forge this nation, and especially the service of those who served and sacrificed in uniform for this country,” said Sansone, who served as a chief petty officer in the U.S. Naval Construction Battalion (Seabees) from 1992 to 2009, and at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station from 2009 to 2012.
Another motivation for Sansone is education, and he noted the U.S. World War One Centennial Commission’s work to inform the public about the diversity of the American military at the time of the war, the impact of that diversity on American values in the 20th century, and the significant roles that women and minorities played.
“During that time there was a big influx of immigration into the United States, and World War I was also the first war that American women served in uniform in a capacity outside of nurses,” he said. “They’ve been doing a very good job on highlighting the service of women and minorities in World War I, and trying to make the point that service and sacrifice knows no gender, knows no race. Having a daughter I’ve really taken that to heart, because to try and pass on a love of our history in this country to the next generation, it’s not just about guys that look like me. She and other girls out there need to be able to identify with great things in our history, and that’s a piece of the first world war.”
According to the commission’s website, the memorial will be built at Pershing Park on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. The website notes that the revised concept of the memorial it displays was reviewed and approved by the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts in July of 2018, though elements of it are still in progress and ultimate design approval will come from the Commission of Fine Arts, the National Capital Planning Commission, and the National Park Service. Sansone said the commission plans to begin construction as early as this fall.
To help support construction of the memorial, Sansone and the Brounshidle Post held a fundraiser on Sept. 7 during the Kenmore Pub Crawl, setting up a table at the post and educating the public about the planned memorial and fundraising effort. They will hold two similar fundraisers, the first from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. during this Sunday’s Kenmore Farmers Market. Sansone said the post will have a table set up during market hours to take donations for the memorial and recruit new members as per the Let Everyone Get Involved in Opportunities for National Service Act. The post will also be taking donations for the memorial during its annual open house, which will take place from noon to 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 2, in the post at 3354 Delaware Ave., Kenmore.
Sansone said the fundraisers are crucial because no taxpayer dollars have been committed to constructing the memorial, and because the fundraising effort is in its last push before construction begins.
“To get the word out and educate people about it is so important because this is only going to be done by trying to get out and get the American people behind it and to support it,” he said.
To learn more about the planned memorial, visit http://www.worldwar1centennial.org/index.php.
LEGION Act signed into law
July 30, 2019
In a significant legislative victory for The American Legion, President Trump signed a bill July 30 that declares the United States has been in a state of war since Dec. 7, 1941.
The American Legion sought the declaration as a way to honor approximately 1,600 U.S. servicemembers who were killed or wounded during previously undeclared periods of war.
The LEGION Act (Let Everyone Get Involved In Opportunities for National Service Act) also opens the door for approximately 6 million veterans to access American Legion programs and benefits for which they previously had not been eligible.
“Recognizing the service of these wartime veterans is the right thing do and it is long overdue,” National Commander Brett Reistad said. “The families of those who were killed or wounded during these wartime acts should take pride in knowing that we recognize their sacrifice and service. Moreover, we are proud to welcome any of the six million living veterans from the previously unrecognized periods into our organization and call them ‘Legionnaires.’”
Now that the legislation has been signed, The American Legion’s eligibility criteria immediately changes from seven war eras to two: April 6, 1917, to Nov. 11, 1918, and Dec. 7, 1941 to a time later determined by the federal government. No other restrictions to American Legion membership are changed.
The law’s journey began on Feb. 14 when Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., introduced S. 504, along with Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C. A companion measure, H.R. 1641, was introduced in the House by Reps. Lou Correa, D-Calif., and Ben Cline, R-Va.
Reistad expressed gratitude to the bipartisan members of Congress for passing the legislation.
“We are grateful that President Trump fully acknowledges the importance of The American Legion by signing the LEGION Act in the White House today – just one week after it passed the House of Representatives,” Reistad said. “In an era of partisan gridlock, Republicans and Democrats in Congress overwhelmingly recognized the importance of allowing thousands of honorable but previously ineligible veterans the right to join the largest and most influential veterans organization in the country.”
Reistad pointed out that existing American Legion membership applications are in the process of being updated but can still be used. “In the meantime, I recommend that prospective Legionnaires and recruiters write ‘LEGION Act’ in the eligibility date section of American Legion membership applications if they fall outside the previous war eras,” Reistad said. “The larger pool of veterans now eligible for The American Legion will also open their family members to eligibility in the Sons of the American Legion and American Legion Auxiliary as well.”
Legion New York Magazine
Buffalo WWI Exhibit Features Legion Honorees
Two World War I veterans, whose names grace Buffalo area American Legion Posts, are featured in a new World War I Exhibit at the Buffalo & Erie County Downtown Public Library, 1 Lafayette Square, Buffalo, reports Past 8th District Commander Jim Bojanowski. The exhibit opened Nov. 16 and features original and reproduced posters, and military artifacts from WWI. Featured in the exhibit, Bojanowski notes, are tributes to Adam Plewacki, the first Buffalonian killed in action during WWI (Adam Plewacki American Legion Post 799 is named after him) and Jesse Clipper, the first Buffalo African-American who succumbed to injuries from WWI (Jesse Clipper American Legion Post 430 is named after him). “There is a large cubicle display on the first floor, with a large room full of displays on the second floor,” Bojanowski says. “The exhibit will be open for the next two years. It is worth the visit.”
Theft of Valor Law
December 12, 2017
Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz has formally signed two local laws that respect and honor the service of Erie County veterans. The first, Local Law Intro. No. 18-1, makes permanent a 15% exemption on certain qualifying real property for Cold War veterans as long as the veteran owns it; this is a change from the previous version of the law that allowed the exemption to stand for 10 years from the date of property purchase.
The second local law signed by Poloncarz, Local Law 19-1, imposes misdemeanor criminal sanctions against any individual who is found to fraudulently represent themselves as a veteran in order to receive a monetary or any other tangible benefit. Known as the “Theft of Valor” law, the measure would be enforced by Director Shenk and the Erie County Veteran’s Service Department. Violations of this Local Law are punishable by a fine of up to $250 for the first offense, $500 for a second offense within one year, and $1,000 and/or up to one year’s imprisonment for a third offense within the same year.
“We owe a huge debt of gratitude to the men and women who have answered the call and served our country to protect the freedoms we hold dear. By taking these actions, we are underscoring our gratitude for their contributions to our community and ensuring that our veterans continue to be held in that special respect that they, and only they, deserve,” said Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz. “Now we are extending a special veterans’ property tax break to further diminish these veterans’ tax burden, and also making it a crime to falsely impersonate a veteran. We are a better community because our veterans cared enough to stand up for America and today we are standing up for them.
”Members of the Brounshidle Post of the American Legion attended a Public Comments Session on Tuesday, October 24, 2017 at the County Hall. The purpose of the session was to comment on the “Theft of Valor Law” introduced by Legislator Ed Rath. The law would make it a crime to impersonate a member of the military for financial gain or for intrinsic benefit.
See the Erie County Legislature or Clarence Bee websites for additional information
The Buffalo News
February 17, 2017 by Nancy A. Fischer
Ken-Ton School Board approves tax exemption for veterans
A big crowd of veterans erupted in applause after the Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda School Board approved Tuesday night a school tax exemption for veterans in an estimated 4,300 households in the district. The exemption is expected to save combat veterans $187 per year in taxes on a $100,000 assessed home, according to district officials. But it will mean higher taxes for non-veteran households that have to make up the difference. A non-veteran household is expected to pay an extra $13.76 per year on a $100,000 assessed home, or a .69 percent increase.
For a year, veterans have been asking the board to approve an exemption similar to what has been offered veterans by counties, towns and villages for at least 25 years. A 2013 state law permits school districts to given veterans the tax break, but less than half of the state's school districts have done that.
After cheering the School Board, veterans wearing jackets and hats with insignias related to their military service, momentarily interrupted the meeting to walk up and shake the hands of board members. Veteran Edward S. Dudek, a Kenmore resident who served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War, said the exemption recognizes, "It's the veteran who has answered the call and always given their all."
Board President Jill O'Malley said that when the veterans first raised the issue, the board was facing too many challenges – including the loss of tax revenue because of the closing of the Huntley Power Plant – to approve the exemption. This year, with consolidations and staff cuts behind them, and the district for the first time in many years expecting to keep tax rates flat, board vice president Andrew Gianni said it is the perfect opportunity to try the exemption.
Under the adopted exemption plan:
- Non-combat veterans may exempt 15 percent of their property value or up to $6,000, whichever is less.
- Combat veterans may exempt up to 25 percent of their property value or $10,000, whichever is less.
- Disabled veterans may exempt up to 50 percent of their property value or $20,000, whichever is less.
The board voted to adopt the lowest exemption it had considered to lessen the impact on non-veteran households. Had it chosen the biggest exemption considered, combat veterans with a $100,000 assessed home would save $469 a year, but non-veteran households would pay nearly $40 a year more in school taxes. Board member Thomas Reigstad told the board he served in the military, but he couldn't support a more generous exemption. "I heard the passion expressed by veterans and their advocates and a couple remarks stuck with me. One that an additional $50 a year for non-veterans would not be a burden and the statement that 'it would only cost two pizzas and a beverage for non-veteran taxpayers,' " said Reigstad. "But I think we have to be aware of all of our constituencies." He said 25 percent of the district's population is struggling financially and at-risk, so he wanted to minimize the impact on them. O'Malley said after the meeting that she also comes from a military family. "It's not lost on me, the sacrifice our veterans have made, especially our combat veterans," she said. Assistant Superintendent for Finance John Brucato noted the School Board was shifting some of the tax burden from exempt to non-exempt taxpayers. "You are taking the portion of taxes that the veterans pay and spreading it out among the other taxpayers," said Brucato. "There's some opposition to the governor placing that burden on school districts." In 2016, the New York State School Boards Association came out against the veterans exemption in its current form. It wants the state to fund veterans' school tax exemptions, not local taxpayers.
Ken-Ton School Board Meeting
January 10, 2017
John J. Brucato, assistant superintendent for finance, delivered a presentation outlining the projected effects of a Veteran's Tax Exemption to the Board of Education.
After the meeting, Board of Education President, Dr. Jill O'Malley, indicated that a vote for the approval of a Veteran's Tax Exemption should be expected to be taken at the next regular board meeting on February 14, 2017.
The Buffalo News
December 13, 2016 by Joseph Popiolkowski
Veterans push Ken-Ton School Board for tax exemption
Many school districts in Western New York have decided whether or not to offer a tax exemption to wartime veterans since the legislation was passed in Albany and signed by the governor in December 2013.
But not in Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda.
And the Ken-Ton School Board during its regular meeting Tuesday night got an earful from veteran residents -- who called on the district to offer the exemption to the district's approximately 2,300 veteran households.
Ted Balbierz, a district parent and Air Force veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, spoke first and ticked off a list of neighboring school districts he said had adopted varying levels of an exemption for veterans.
"We stand before you united tonight, veterans who have served our country during peacetime at home as well as combat abroad, both able-bodied and disabled with scars seen and unseen, requesting that you as a board consider adopting some form of veterans tax exemption moving forward," he said.
The Alternative Veterans Exemption program is the same tax exemption program that has been offered by counties, towns and villages for at least 25 years.
But when taxes go down for one group, they shift to the rest of the taxpayers in a district.
That redistribution has been a point of contention for some districts considering adopting the exemption.
The Ken-Ton board discussed the exemption in March. The board then was informed that a combat veteran who owns an average home in the district could receive a reduction between $192.47 and $484.64, depending on the exemption level adopted. The tax rate for the average home owned by a non-veteran would increase between 0.75 percent and 2.02 percent.
But the board took no action at the time, noting many residents live on fixed incomes and their tax burden would increase. At that time, the district also faced an uncertain budget due to the closure of the Huntley station power plant and the loss of $3 million in annual revenue.
Balbierz acknowledged that the burden would fall on others. He noted that a combat veteran with an average home in the neighboring Sweet Home School District sees a tax break of $412 and the average non-veteran resident sees an increase of $25.
School Board President Jill O'Malley asked the district's administration to compile information on what other local districts have done on the issue, for next month's meeting.
The New York State School Boards Association this year came out against the veterans exemption in its current form and said "any new school property tax exemption enacted by the state should be funded by the state, instead of the local taxpayer."
The association supports bills in the state Senate and Assembly that would require the state to reimburse local school districts for taxes that would have been paid by veterans who receive an exemption. The legislation also would cap eligibility for the exemption to veterans earning less than $500,000 a year.
The association also surveyed districts across the state between March and May and found about 41 percent of all districts in the state -- 254 -- have adopted the exemption since the law was enacted in 2013, while 362 decided not to. Most of the districts that adopted the exemption -- about two-thirds -- are downstate, south of Albany.
Of the 51 school districts in Erie, Genesee, Niagara, Orleans and Wyoming counties that responded to the survey, 29 -- 57 percent -- had adopted the alternative veterans exemption. More than half -- 55 percent -- of the districts said they did not adopt the exemption because they did not want to redistribute the tax burden, the survey found.
Teresa Dash, a district resident and spouse of a veteran, also spoke to a packed Community Room in the Philip Sheridan Building. She agreed it was unfair for state lawmakers to leave the decision to individual school districts rather than passing its own statewide exemption for veterans.
"I say here tonight -- I'd like to represent all these fine gentlemen -- we say, 'Enough is enough,'" she said.
Post your community related announcements here to reach the entire Kenmore/Town of Tonawanda Community.
Examples of community related announcements are: Special events, fundraisers for your high school, college, church, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, Elks, Moose, Chamber of Commerce, scholarships for the education of your children, youth oriented baseball or other athletic events, etc.
Other examples of community related announcements: Disabled veterans needing rides to keep their medical appointments. With their husbands deployed in combat zones, spouses with babies needing minor home repairs, batteries installed in their alarm systems, Veteran wives needing baby sitters during an emergency, etc.
If your announcements serve a benefit or improves the community quality of life, and is legal, Post 205, at it's sole discretion, may post your announcement. Except for emergencies, allow two weeks notice prior to the event date.