Quogue, Westhampton Beach Villages Adopt Hurricane Sandy Relief Laws

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Two villages in western Southampton Town approved legislation on Friday enacting a state law that could provide relief to homeowners whose houses were severely damaged last year during Hurricane Sandy.

Westhampton Beach passed its law on Friday morning, and Quogue followed suit that evening. Both local laws allow individuals whose homes lost at least half their assessed value due to the storm to receive refunds on their tax bills, or tax credits toward their next bill.

To qualify, houses and all other improved properties had to be assessed prior to the storm making landfall locally on October 28, 2012, and sustained extensive damage. The refund or credit would offset the amount the property owner paid based on the original assessment to bring it to what it should have been based on the post-Sandy assessment.

Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the Superstorm Sandy Assessment Relief Act into law in October, allowing taxable districts—in this case, the villages—to refund tax dollars to residents, if they opted to adopt a local law by last Friday. The refunds and credits come directly from the taxing district, which are not reimbursed by the state.

Quogue will pay for its reimbursements using funds from the property tax and revenue line in its general budget, while Westhampton Beach will use contingency funds, according to the mayors of each village. Property owners have until January 21, 2014, to submit their applications to the Southampton Town Assessor.

“The idea behind it was that people shouldn’t be paying taxes on the full assessed value of homes they couldn’t even live in or still can’t live in now,” Westhampton Beach Deputy Mayor Ralph Urban said Friday.

Officials from both villages said they found out about the requirements of the law just days before Friday’s deadline, when they were informed by Southampton Town officials. The Town Board enacted a similar law two weeks ago.

Southampton, Sagaponack, West Hampton Dunes and North Haven villages did not enact similar laws; therefore, their residents cannot apply for tax relief. Sag Harbor Village officials did not return calls this week asking if they had adopted similar legislation.

Quogue and Westhampton Beach had fewer homes sustain major damage than other areas of the town, such as Flanders and East Quogue, or elsewhere on Long Island. Still, Quogue Mayor Peter Sartorius said there are about three houses in his village that could qualify for a refund.

Westhampton Beach Mayor Conrad Teller said he wasn’t sure how many homes in his municipality would qualify, but he knows of a few that sustained significant damage.

Both villages opted to go with the state minimum of an assessed loss of at least 50 percent in order to qualify for relief, despite a option in the law that allows the taxing district to set the minimum loss at 10 percent.

“Sandy was an extraordinary event, so people that were damaged in an extraordinary way get relief, not just minor damage,” Mr. Sartorius said during a special Quogue Board of Trustees meeting on Friday.

The relief was available to all taxing districts, including school and fire districts, in Greene, Nassau, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Suffolk, Sullivan, Ulster and Westchester counties.

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