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Flood victims offered tax relief

Governments, school districts can reassess devastated properties

— Flood victims could have their tax bills more accurately reflect their damaged properties following relief measures approved by the State Legislature.

The Flood Assessment Relief Act was approved during the extraordinary session of the legislature on Wednesday, Dec. 8, and would allow local governments and school districts the ability to reassess property values in federally-declared disaster areas affected by flood damage from Tropical Storms Irene and Lee. The legislation was previously enacted in 2005 and 2007 for flooding related incidents. Also, $2 million in grants are slatted to be provided to help businesses and farms affected by flooding.

Assemblyman George Amedore, R-Rotterdam, commended the bill as “common sense legislation” for offering homeowners a needed tax break during a difficult period of recovery.

“It would add insult to injury to force homeowners to pay thousands of dollars in taxes for a house that no longer exists or is uninhabitable,” said Amedore. “I think it is a significant piece of legislation … that brings about some much needed relief.”

Amedore urged Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a September letter to offer such relief based on previous legislation. While the approved bill doesn’t exactly line up with his proposal, he said it was a positive step towards recovery.

Through the bill, the Schenectady County Legislature would need to pass a resolution by Feb. 15, 2012, to implement provisions of the state act. Also, at least 10 properties must be believed to be damaged in order for a municipality to implement the bill.

A property owner would be eligible for reassessment if it’s believed 50 percent of the property value was lost due to flood damage. The difference in the assessed values would provide either a reduced property tax bill or a refund it taxes were already paid.

School districts in federally-declared disaster areas would also be able to accept property tax payments as installments from homeowners, with the number of installments at the discretion of the district. Also, school districts implementing installment plans would receive advanced school aid payments for the current school year.

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