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Tax relief program available for upcounty flood victims

Wednesday, May 14, 2014 - Updated: 7:24 PM


For the C-S-E

Property damaged during last summer's floods may eligible for some tax relief through a new program provided by the state.

Officials from the town of Minden and village of Fort Plain may opt into the program, which is part of the Mohawk Valley and Niagara County Assessment Relief Act, which allows municipalities affected by the floods of 2013 to reassess property that suffered damage.

"We haven't passed the resolution yet, but we have a meeting Monday, and I do expect to it pass," Minden Supervisor Cheryl Reese said. "Our goal as a town, our priority, is that we need to do what is right for the people who were severely impacted."

Legislation first proposed by state Sen. Cecilia Tkaczyk, D-Duanesburg, to provide property tax relief to businesses and homeowners hurt by the floods was included in the 2014-15 state budget last month.

The measure allows impacted businesses and homeowners to have their property taxes reassessed and lowered to reflect the flood-damaged status of their home or property.

The deadline for local governments to opt into the program is May 15.

If the local government does opt in, the deadline for property owners to apply for assessment relief is June 30. The deadlines were set by the state Department of Taxation and Finance.

Minden and Fort Plain tax assessor Robert Harris said Fort Plain has yet to opt into the program because officials are waiting on clarification from the state.

Harris has identified more than 100 impacted properties, but not all will qualify since the program only applies to homeowners with at least 10 percent damage.

"Maybe 40 or 50 will be considered," he said, adding that some homeowners have walked away from their properties, while others have sold their properties and moved out of the area.

It is not clear how much fiscal impact this will have on the two municipalities, since it depends on how many residents apply for the program.

However, Harris estimates that the taxable value will decrease by more than $1 million. The impact will most likely be greater in Fort Plain since the village sustained more damage.

He said the impact will also be felt for several years.

"For this year it's going to have an impact because it's an unexpected expense on the budget," Harris said. "In future years it's going to have an impact, but they can anticipate that tax base."

The Fort Plain Central School District is also eligible for the program, since school districts are held harmless for the loss of STAR reimbursement by the state as a result of lowered assessments, according to the legislation.

Harris said he is meeting with the board of education Wednesday so it can make a decision.

The Montgomery County Legislature passed a resolution at its regular meeting last month to opt into the program.

County Treasurer Shawn Bowerman said previously that he anticipates this to cost the county approximately $17,664, which would come from the county's fund balance.

Despite the impact, Harris said the residents deserve the relief.

"I have worked with many of the property owners," he said. "They are really honest, hard-working group of folks who had an unfortunate circumstance."

Tkaczyk said the program will help recovery efforts.

"Businesses and homeowners are still recovering from flood damage, and many are struggling with the costs of necessary repairs." she stated. "They should not be further burdened with taxes that are based on the pre-flood condition and value of their property."

Tkaczyk toured Fort Plain immediately after the flooding, which damaged or destroyed more than 250 homes and businesses. She assisted with cleanup, met with local leaders, business people and homeowners, and brought investors and community development experts into the area to build relationships with local officials.

She developed her legislation after meeting with local official and community leaders to discuss the needs and the challenges they faced in the recovery effort. She also wants the state to take further action to reimburse local governments for lost tax revenue.

"I'm very pleased my colleagues grasped the seriousness of the situation in Fort Plain and other upstate communities hit by flooding and supported my legislation," Tkaczyk said.

Calls to Fort Plain Mayor Guy Barton were not returned.


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