Officials Speak Out On Veteran Issues

Members of the governing body discussed a number of issues at a recent Township Council meeting. (Photo by Chris Lundy)

  BERKELEY – The governing body recently addressed taxes, housing, and mental health for local veterans during a recent Township Council meeting.

  The first instance came up when the town had to waive the property tax of a few residents because they are disabled veterans.

  State law requires that 100% disabled veterans should not pay property taxes. Mayor Carmen Amato said that he and the Township Council have always been in favor of this, since the veterans gave so much for the country. However, it is another instance of state mandates without state pay.

  With the senior developments in town, there is a larger proportion of disabled veterans in Berkeley than in other towns. Therefore, it impacts Berkeley more than other towns, he said. Berkeley loses out on that tax revenue.

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  That’s why the governing body supports S-163, a bill that would reimburse the town for this. The two main sponsors are the state senators of towns who are impacted the most by this: Christopher Connors (R-9th), who represents Berkeley as well as towns in southern Ocean County, and James Holzapfel (R-10th), who represents Manchester, another town with a lot of senior developments.

  The bill has been introduced in the state Senate, and has been referred to the Senate Commerce Committee.

  The Township Council also spoke in favor of S-171, a bill that would allow towns to turn their development fees into funding for veteran housing. It was also introduced by Connors. Holzapfel is a co-sponsor. It has been referred to the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee.

  When a developer builds homes, a town can impose a monetary fee upon the developer. The town collects this money into a fund. In Berkeley, it is an affordable housing trust fund.

  The bill would allow towns to be able to allow this money to be used for veterans housing.

  “For the United States to be the best nation in the world and have homeless veterans is a disgrace,” Mayor Amato said.

  Council members also made it a point to talk about current events, and some events that are still in veterans’ memories.

  March 29, 1973 was the day that the last U.S. troops left Vietnam. The war “era” ended in 1975, according to the Veterans Administration.

  In 2025, it’ll be 50 years, remarked Councilman James Byrnes, himself a Vietnam veteran. At a well-attended meeting in a senior community, he asked all Vietnam veterans to stand and be recognized and quite a few did.

  He said that with the war in Ukraine, these images and the constant talk about it in the news might be triggering for veterans. If they are having trouble coping, please contact the VA for help.