Nassau homeowners and businesses whose properties were damaged by superstorm Sandy two years ago could have a happier holiday season this year as the county Tuesday began sending out tax refund checks averaging $3,100 each.
County Comptroller George Maragos announced that the county was mailing $21.4 million in refunds to some 6,700 homeowners and businesses whose properties lost value caused by high winds or flooding from the storm that roared through Long Island at the end of October 2012.
The refunds, which began going out Tuesday and will continue into early January, are intended to compensate the property owners whose assessments should have been lowered on their 2012-13 and 2013-14 tax bills to reflect the Sandy damage, Maragos said. Five percent of the property owners will get checks higher than $5,000, he said.
"I am happy that superstorm Sandy-affected homeowners and businesses are finally getting relief for the damages they suffered," Maragos said in a news release. "I apologize if the payments took longer than originally expected, but we had to verify every claim and ensure that our residents received the maximum reimbursements allowed by law."
He said the county assessor is reviewing claims from another 2,000 property owners, representing an additional $8 million to $9 million in possible refunds.
County Executive Edward Mangano announced the program to provide tax relief to Sandy-damaged homes and businesses in October of last year. While Nassau borrowed $35 million to pay the refunds, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo pledged that the state would repay the county for its costs.
The highest number of refunds will be going to Long Beach. Nearly 20 percent of the total $21.4 million in refunds will be sent to 1,324 Long Beach homeowners and businesses, according to the comptroller.
"I'm thrilled that residents are finally getting the money that is owed to them. It's very important," said Legis. Denise Ford (R-Long Beach).
Massapequa, another community swamped by Sandy floodwaters, will get the second highest number of checks, with 878 homeowners and businesses getting 13 percent of the total refunds.
The program temporarily reduced assessments for the two tax years 2012-13 and 2013-14 unless property owners were unable to rebuild.
"While some taxpayers received a credit on their tax bills already, I'm happy to learn that checks are now on their way to those who haven't yet received this important tax relief," Mangano said.
Acting Assessor James Davis said his office had reduced assessments on about 4,000 properties before the 2013-14 tax bills went out, which means those owners will not receive refunds unless they provided additional proof of lost value. They still would be entitled to 2012-13 refunds.
He said assessors went out in the field after Sandy to review about 8,800 properties.