Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo  (Nov. 28, 2012)

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (Nov. 28, 2012) Credit: Howard Schnapp

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed legislation Tuesday that could lower property tax assessments on properties destroyed or damaged by superstorm Sandy.

The new law allows for retroactive adjustments of January 2013 tax bills. Municipalities and school districts must "opt in" to the program by passing a local law to participate. They have 45 days to do so. The law is not limited to residential properties.

Local governments will set the threshold for how much damage a property must have suffered to qualify; it can be set as low as a 10 percent loss of value.

Property owners have 90 days from Tuesday to apply to a local assessor for a reduction.

In signing the law, Cuomo said many property owners received tax bills last January that were based on pre-Sandy valuations and didn't reflect storm losses. Property owners who have already paid their January 2013 bills could receive refunds.

Long Island legislators led the push for the law.

"Property owners will be spared from paying full taxes on homes that are no longer there or were no longer habitable after the storm," said Assemb. Robert Sweeney (D-Lindenhurst), who sponsored the measure in the Assembly. "This is a simple matter of fairness."

The other sponsor, Sen. Phil Boyle (R-Bay Shore), said lawmakers worked "across party lines" to enact the law.

The measure not only applies to Nassau and Suffolk counties, but also Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Sullivan, Ulster and Westchester. New York City is excluded.

Cuomo also signed three other Sandy-related bills Tuesday. One enables school districts to use reserve funds for Sandy recovery expenses; another gives municipalities an additional year to repay state-fund advances.

Another measure allows communities within the Peconic Bay region -- East Hampton, Riverhead, Shelter Island, Southampton and Southold -- to use preservation funds to protect areas at risk of storm erosion.

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