ELIZABETHTOWN - Tax relief legislation will likely be introduced later this week that would allow assessment reductions for flood-damaged properties in the North Country.
The bill would let counties move their taxable status date to May 15, said Dan Mac Entee, spokesman for state Sen. Betty Little, R-Queensbury, who plans to introduce the legislation in the Senate. Normally, a property's taxable status date is based on its condition March 1, which fell before the devastating floods that hit the region at the end of April.
Owners of properties that lost 50 percent or more of their value as a result of the weather would be able to seek a lower valuation, Mac Entee said, thus reducing their property tax burden. He said the bill would cover storm damage throughout Little's district, which includes all of Franklin and Essex counties.
Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward, R-Willsboro, is working on a companion bill to introduce in the Assembly. The legislative session ends June 20.
After the legislation passes, Essex County will likely form a committee to decide exactly what would qualify a property for relief, said Board of Supervisors Chairman Randy Douglas, D-Jay.
There has also been damage from lightning over the past month, including at least two structures locally that burned down after lightning strikes - Spencer Boatworks in the town of St. Armand in Essex County and a house in Paul Smiths in Franklin County. Douglas said county officials could have to decide later whether such damage would qualify a property for a reduction, taking into account whether the properties receive insurance money or federal aid.
"We're not going to reduce their assessment if they were made whole," Douglas said.
Essex County supervisors passed a resolution today calling on the state to pass the bill. They amended the resolution, at the request of Supervisor Bill Ferebee, R-Keene, to add "ground saturation and rotational slumps" - which that happened as a result of the heavy rains and flooding but aren't exactly flood damage - to the list of damage they would like to see compensated. Eighty-two acres of Porter Mountain in Keene Valley are slowly collapsing, wrecking one home and threatening six others. The 26 acres of private land in the landslide area will likely lose their value as a result, Ferebee said.
Supervisors discussed adding fire damage to the resolution but decided against this.
"That's nonsense. You have insurance," said Supervisor Roby Politi, R/I-North Elba. "I don't want this resolution to cover anything but the natural disaster."
The county is still awaiting a presidential disaster declaration that would open the door for federal aid. Franklin and Essex counties suffered tens of millions of dollars in damage to infrastructure and property as a result of the floods and storms.