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Long Island

11,000 LIers affected by Sandy apply for assessment reductions

Devastation on Bayview Avenue West in Lindenhurst after

Devastation on Bayview Avenue West in Lindenhurst after superstorm Sandy hit. Photo Credit: Newsday, 2012 / Thomas A. Ferrara

More than 11,000 Long Island taxpayers whose homes or businesses were damaged in superstorm Sandy have applied for assessment reductions.

The lion's share came from hard-hit Nassau, where county government Thursday began mailing notices to 8,000 property owners stating whether assessments will be lowered for rebates on last year's tax bills, and by how much.

Suffolk officials have put a preliminary cost estimate of $10 million in their forecasts for this year.

Nassau County has not yet calculated the tax impact of the assessment reductions, with county spokesman Brian Nevin calling it a "moving target."

Each of Suffolk's 10 towns does its own tax assessments, and most officials are working to close this year's annual tax rolls by May 1. They say they will review applications and send out reduction notices later this spring or this summer. Only Southampton, which had 130 applications, has already ruled on applications, informing homeowners in March.

State legislation approved last year gave nine counties with heavy storm damage, including Nassau and Suffolk and their towns, school districts and other special districts, the option to lower or eliminate assessments on improved business and residential properties that were 10 percent to 100 percent damaged. Assessment on land values will not change.

Under the legislation, counties can issue bonds for as long as 10 years to pay for assessment reductions. The law also bars counties from billing school districts for the retroactive tax rebates.

But Suffolk Treasurer Angie Carpenter, who would issue refund payments, has appealed to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo for the state to cover the refunds using federal Community Development block grants. State Sen. Philip Boyle (R-Bay Shore), sponsor of the state legislation, agreed that the federal and state governments should pay for refunds as part of hurricane recovery efforts.

Nevin said the program is already contained in the State's Action Plan and will be paid by Community Development block grant funds.

Applicants who are unhappy with their assessment reductions will have an opportunity to file grievances with the assessment review board in their jurisdiction.

Officials said they were wary of making projections on the potential size of rebates because circumstances for each property can be dramatically different -- ranging from the property's original value and the level of damage to whether the local school district and town opted into the program.

Riverhead Assessor Laverne Tannenberg, for example, said her town received only three applications, and the town and the school districts in which the homeowners live are not participating.

"The only jurisdiction affected is the county, which makes up only about 5 percent of a person's tax bill,' she said.

In Suffolk, the bulk of applications came from property owners in Babylon Town (1,682), Islip (700) and Brookhaven (695).

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