Hamden gives tax break to Quinnipiac student veteran residents

Matt Grahn

In a press release from Tuesday, Sept. 19, the town of Hamden announced a $15,000 property tax break for its veterans.

The application deadline was Monday, Oct. 1, and the tax break will be applied to taxes next July.

Even though the application period is now over, Jason Burke, Quinnipiac’s director of veteran and military affairs, said that this tax break is a sign of what Hamden is willing to do for its veteran population.

“I can certainly go out to the military installations up and down the east coast and say, ‘This is just another part of why you should attend QU,’” Burke said. “The town and community supports its veterans.”

Freshman Brian Stilwell, who served in the Marine Corps, just bought a house in Hamden last summer and is waiting for his closing.

Before buying the house, Stilwell researched what towns in the area had the best tax breaks and even before the announcement, Hamden still was the best.

“It’s more money that I can put back into savings, and increase my living standards,” he said.

Stilwell attended Quinnipiac back in 2010, but left to join the military. Even back then, Stilwell felt the school was veteran friendly, as it was when the Student Veterans’ Organization (SVO) was founded. When it was time for him to resume his education, Stilwell felt that Quinnipiac was an obvious choice.

“When I was in the service, I kept track of the school and everything that they did,” Stilwell said. “I visited the school pretty often, so I saw what the school was changing for the better. Every year, they got better and better for veterans. When I got out of the service, I decided to finish my education, and Quinnipiac was the only school I had in mind.”

However, some of the other student veterans have commented that the property tax relief would not do much, as they felt that Hamden is an expensive place to live. Burke does acknowledge things can be pricey in this area, but thinks that their sense of expensive is “relative.”

“If these veterans were not located in Connecticut, or have just come back to Connecticut, but were stationed in Texas or Florida, where the cost of living is much less, I could see where their reference point may be skewed,” he said.

Burke notes that, for example, a decent rental apartment could hypothetically cost between $900 to $1,500 per month. However, due to the housing allowance from education-related service benefits, Burke thinks that if you can budget well, then it should be covered.

As for Stilwell, he believes that it is worth it to be in Hamden.

“Most people who get out of the service they go right to school,” Stilwell said. “Some people might not have the giant turnaround time to look at houses and look at different towns. Knowing that Hamden offers this big discount it takes a big stress off.”

In the press release, Hamden Mayor Curt Leng expressed a similar sentiment.

“Hamden has worked hard to improve the financial security and quality of life of our Veterans,” Leng said. “I am very hopeful that these new exemptions will ease some of the financial burden our Veterans are feeling in their day-to-day lives, and I look forward to continuing these efforts to ensure that all of Hamden’s Veterans are well taken care of.”

Burke said that there are a variety of things that the school does for its student vet population. This includes supplying the SVO lounge in the Center for Communications and Engineering, and also treating incoming veterans as if they were transfer students, reducing their costs.

Burke thinks that supporting a student veteran population at Quinnipiac is important because it brings another type of diversity.

“It’s not just about race or sex or ethnicity or country of origin,” Leng said. “It’s about different life experiences and different age groups that come back to school and can add to the classroom on differing opinions based on life experiences. I think that’s huge.”

Stilwell thinks that the potential of a larger veteran population can also benefit Hamden.

“For the town to offer this big tax break, it’s more of an incentive for veterans to come to Quinnipiac and veterans moving into Hamden would bring more money into the town,” he said.

Burke, who is 52, said wit’s “cathartic” to go help younger servicemen get an education.

“It’s a testament to the school’s leadership to say, ‘Hey, let’s bring in someone who can go to the military installations and talk in acronyms and understand what the military members went through while they served and be able to liaison between them and (Quinnipiac),’” Burke said. “I feel fortunate that the position exists.”