Sandy victims could be eligible for tax credits

FILE PHOTO | Damage in Orient from superstorm Sandy.

Southold Town has set a public hearing on a proposed program that would allow homeowners who suffered property damage during Superstorm Sandy to receive a refund or credit back on their next town tax assessment.

On Wednesday, board members scheduled a hearing on the Superstorm Sandy Assessment Relief Act for Nov. 19 at 4:30 p.m.

The legislation, signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in October, proposes moving the property evaluation assessment date from March 1, 2013 to Oct. 29, 2012 – the day after Sandy wrecked millions of homes across the state.

Related: Timeline of the days leading up to, including and after Superstorm Sandy touched down on the North Fork

The law would reassess the value of the property at the height of the storm damage, instead of at the increased value it was assessed at in March, after repairs were made.

Gov. Cuomo’s bill allows counties and municipalities to opt in to the program, which provides homeowners who filed a for Federal Emergency Management Agency to receive an adjustment on their property tax assessment to account for losses in value due to Sandy.

The amount of the tax refund, credit or assessment reduction would depend upon the FEMA damage assessment determination and inspections that were conducted by the assessor’s office based on bills paid to licensed contractors or paid homeowner insurance claims, according to the law.

If adopted, the town would be required to refund the homeowners the difference. Assessor Bob Scott estimated that about 35 to 50 homeowners might apply for the reassessment.

“There weren’t that many properties there that were affected,” he said during a phone interview Wednesday. “That is the problem we just don’t know how many people could qualify.”

Suffolk County would front the initial pay out to homeowners, Mr. Scott said, and Southold taxpayers would see the difference reflected in their next tax rate – under the real property tax line. According to Vanessa Baird-Streeter, spokeswoman for county executive Steve Bellone, the county is planning on adopting the legislation after interested towns pass it on the town level. The legislation will allow the county to bond to reimburse homeowners if federal funds are not available.

The law requires each taxing district, including school districts, to hold public hearings before opting into the policy.

The first town hearing will be held on Nov. 19 at 4:30 p.m. at the Town Hall Meeting Room.

The deadline to opt-in is Dec. 6 and homeowners would be required to submit their claims to the assessor’s officer before Jan. 21, 2014 for reimbursement.