Babylon Village: Higher assessment for Sandy repairs a mistake

Cathy and John Fallon in the home that Cathy and John Fallon in the home that they are renting in Babylon on Feb. 12, 2014. Photo Credit: Ed Betz

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Babylon Village mistakenly sent out approximately 150 letters telling homeowners their property assessments would go up after Sandy-related repairs and construction, Mayor Ralph Scordino said.

Scordino said at a packed Tuesday night trustees meeting that a village policy set after superstorm Sandy struck in October 2012 allows residents to do storm-related repairs and elevation with no reassessment if the work did not expand the home's footprint.

The letters were sent earlier this month to homeowners who had done home improvements and are titled "Tentative Notice of Assessment Change." However, approximately 150 of the property owners who received the letter had done Sandy-related repairs, and it was a mistake to notify them of assessment changes, Scordino said.

"There was a mistake made and I'm going to rectify it," Scordino said.

He said homeowners who did Sandy repairs should review their tax bills and, if they were wrongly assessed, should call his office. He said they could also explain the mistake at the village's tax grievance day Feb. 18.

More than 40 residents attended the trustees meeting, many of whom live south of Montauk Highway where storm flooding occurred. Many said they were thankful for the village's help but said the letter seemed like one more bureaucratic difficulty in more than a year of struggling to recover from the storm.

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Margaret Stroehlein, who said her family has still not returned to their Edward Avenue home, said, "Our lives are not back together. Some of us are still fighting, and that letter hurt us even more."

In response, Scordino said, "I give 110 percent for everybody in this village. I do care."

Robert and Annette Wanderer, who said they lived for months with no plumbing last year in their Midway Street home, showed a reporter a letter telling them to expect a $555 increase in the assessed value of their home after they elevated it.

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John and Cathy Fallon said the letter they received told them to expect a $525 increase in the assessed value of their Nereid Place one-bedroom home. They said they are renting an apartment nearby while they make arrangements to rebuild.

John Fallon said both he and his wife were satisfied with the administration's response but still worry if they can afford to fix the home where they hope to spend their retirement.

"I'm scared," said John Fallon, 69, a school bus driver. "We're overloaded."

Babylon Town has adopted a policy similar to the village's. "Property tax assessments will not increase based on in-kind repairs, elevations, or construction to replace damaged property as a result of damage from superstorm Sandy," Supervisor Rich Schaffer said in a statement.

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