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State senate OKs flood aid

Wednesday, February 05, 2014 - Updated: 9:28 AM

By LAUREN LEWIS

For the C-S-E

FORT PLAIN -- Legislation co-sponsored by State Sen. Cecilia Tkaczyk, D-Duanesburg, to aid property owners affected by last summer's flooding passed unanimously in the state Senate Monday.

The bill still awaits state Assembly approval and Gov. Andrew Cuomo's signature before local municipalities could opt in.

"It is simply not fair that flood victims are expected to pay property taxes based on the pre-flood condition and value of their property," Tkaczyk said. "Even worse, it can hamper recovery efforts because people have so many other expenses to deal with."

For example, if a home was damaged or washed away in the flood and the owners were planning to rebuild elsewhere, they are still receiving a school tax bill and a property tax bill as if the house was still there and the owner was living in it.

"My bill allows local municipalities to opt in and provide a mechanism for the local property assessor to come and take a look at your property and say 'yes you've had significant flood damage, I'm going to lower the assessment on your property,' which will, in effect, lower their tax bill," Tkaczyk said.

However, the local municipalities will need to opt in and a resolution will have to be passed by the school board that allows the assessor to reassess properties within the school district.

Fort Plain Mayor Guy Barton was happy to hear of the help.

"I'm very pleased that the Senate has decided to help the people of Fort Plain, which was devastated by the flooding of June 28, 2013," he said.

Barton commended the governor, representatives of the Fort Plain area, and all others involved for all the hard work they put into helping the community get back on its feet and to show that they care about the Mohawk Valley.

The state Senate passed the bill right away and Tkaczyk doesn't envision it taking long in the Assembly.

"I wouldn't be surprised if the Assembly passed it next week," she said.

Once both houses have OK'd the bill, it goes to the governor.

Tkaczyk also wants the state to take further action to reimburse local governments for lost tax revenue.

"It is important that we provide immediate relief to the property owners who have been hit the hardest," Tkaczyk said. "But we have to ensure that local governments are not doubly saddled with the cost of recovery as well as the loss of revenues from sales tax, property tax and other sources."

James Plastiras, director of communications for Sen. Tkaczyk, said it would be through flood assistance funds that the state would reimburse the local governments and school districts for the money they didn't receive because the tax assessments were lowered.

Barton thinks the outlook for Fort Plain is bright.

"We're coming back," he said. "We've come a long, long ways, and we're going to be back bigger and better than we were before the flood."

     

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