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By Laura Crimaldi
Sunday, August 31, 2008

Braintree's bravest are about to have one less bill to pay.
Beginning Sept. 16, Iraq and Afghan war veterans who served with the National Guard or Army Reserves will no longer have to pay a property tax bill for the period they were abroad.
"Local government is doing something for the residents of the town and that's what government should be doing," said Braintree Town Councilor Dan Clifford, who initiated the effort to wipe out property taxes for veterans.
Town Meeting approved the property tax abatement for an estimated 50 citizen soldiers in April 2007. The measure then was brought to the Legislature as a home-rule petition. Gov. Deval Patrick signed the bill into law June 16.
"It had overwhelming support," said Clifford, who believes the property-tax break is the only one of its kind in the country.
The town has begun advertising the program on local-access cable television and in the local newspaper. The Massachusetts National Guard is also helping town officials track down qualified residents, Clifford said.
To qualify for the property tax exemption, veterans must be homeowners who earned less during their overseas posting than they do in civilian life. The abatement is retroactive to 2002 and will be available through fiscal 2010.
Town veterans agent Reynold Barnes will handle applications from veterans for the tax relief, Clifford said.
Clifford, who previously served on the Board of Assessors, said the tax exemption is expected to cost the town $96,000 to $112,000. Braintree's annual budget is $80 million. The town will make up the lost revenue from an assessor's overlay account, which has a surplus, Clifford said.
"It's not a great deal of money," Clifford said. "This is something that the town rallied around because they wanted to support those who were called up to active military duty."
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