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Lawmakers seek reduced assessments for heavily damaged Essex Co. properties

October 26, 2011
By CHRIS MORRIS - Staff Writer ( , Adirondack Daily Enterprise

Essex County supervisors want the state to pass legislation allowing assessors to reduce property values on homes substantially damaged by disasters.

County lawmakers passed a resolution earlier this month urging the state Legislature to take up a bill reducing property values on homes and businesses devastated by flooding triggered by Tropical Storm Irene on Aug. 28.

Moriah town Supervisor Tom Scozzafava says lawmakers like state Sen. Betty Little and Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward are working on a broader bill that will address all forms of disaster, including fires, landslides and flooding. Scozzafava noted that currently, a person's home could burn to the ground and they could still get stuck paying the full taxable value for a year.

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"It (the bill) will probably address those concerns," he said.

In the town of Keene, Supervisor Bill Ferebee said a massive landslide has cost property owners millions of dollars. Add to that homes and businesses devastated by Irene, and relief from tax bills is critical, he said.

Little told the Enterprise the bill has been discussed in Albany. She said a bill was prepared in the Senate following spring flooding, but it never got through the Assembly.

"I do think it's something we need to pay attention to," Little said.

According to Little, the legislation would require that properties be damaged to the tune of at least 50 percent of their assessed value.

"Otherwise, you'd go crazy with minor disasters," she said. "We're talking about severe damage. I mean there's 30 homes in Jay that would have to be destroyed - the last thing you want is a tax bill."

Essex County Attorney Dan Manning recommended that supervisors focus on specific disasters and not ask for a blanket deal.

"I don't know how successful you will be saying, 'Look, anytime there is a catastrophic (disaster) or a fire or anything to property that it will be relieved from the tax rolls,'" he said. "I mean, that is how we make our money, so the powers (that) be up in the Senate and Assembly may not want to go a blanket route."

Manning said limiting the bill to specific events may give it a better chance at passing the Legislature.

Little said similar legislation has been approved by lawmakers in the past, but they've included expiration dates. She said that unless lawmakers get called back to Albany before the end of the year, the bill won't get taken up until January 2012.



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