By ARTHUR CLEVELAND
FORT PLAIN – A local state senator and assemblyman met with village, town and school officials Monday to announce a proposal that could assist people whose homes were damaged in June’s flooding.
State Sen. Cecilia Tkaczyk and Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, whose districts include Montgomery?County, held a news conference at Harry Hoag Elementary School to announce they have introduced legislation, entitled the Mohawk Valley and Niagara County Assessment Relief Act, aimed at helping property owners who were affected by flooding.
Under the proposal, municipalities in Montgomery, Oneida, Herkimer, Madison and Niagara counties have the option to revise property tax values based on the percentage of property value lost due to flood damage. Property owners would then be able to seek a reassessment, and assessors would be authorized to request assessments of seriously damaged homes be based on the property’s after-flood value. The assessments would be subject to review by the local Board of Assessment Review.
“Under the current law, property owners have to pay taxes based on the pre-flood condition and value of their property, which is simply not fair,” Tkaczyk said. “Our legislation would lower their tax bill to compensate for the decreased value of their flood-damaged property. This will allow them to put more of their resources into rebuilding their homes and our communities.”
Residents who attended the meeting said the legislation was needed because many of them had to buy a second home since the flooding began, leaving them with two homes requiring tax payments.
Andrea Bouck, formerly of Reid Street, said she lost her home in the flooding.
“I’m not returning [to] the Reid Street home,” Bouck said. “My home is certainly livable, but this is the fourth time. I lost my garage. I still wanted to put more work into my home; I wanted to side it, I wanted to do the kitchen, and as it is right now, I can’t stay home. The value is in the gutter, and I’m not about to go back to do anything more there and put any more money there because I’ll never get it back out.”
Fort Plain Mayor Guy Barton said between 200 and 250 homes in Montgomery County had at least some property damage or lost some value to during the flooding.
The legislation was first discussed by Tkaczyk shortly after floodwaters hit the village in June, destroying or damaging many homes on Reid and Abbott streets. One woman was washed away by the flood waters and was found dead several days later.
Tkaczyk said the goal now is to get the state Legislature to reconvene to pass the proposal as soon as possible. Tkaczyk urged voters and citizens to write letters to state Senate and Assembly leaders.
“People already have their property tax bills, they are due in a few weeks,” Tkaczyk said.
Santabarbara said if the act is not passed before property taxes are due, homeowners could still get a tax break.