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Towns Still Struggling With Sandy Costs

By now, you’ve probably heard that tax assessments on more than 40,000 Garden State properties have been reduced by $4.3 billion due to damage caused by Superstorm Sandy.

Storm damage at the Jersey Shore (John Moore, Getty Images)

Hiking property taxes to make up the loss is an option, but not the only one.

“The property tax is the only real source of revenues that local governments have,” explains Bill Dressel, executive director of the New Jersey State League of Municipalities. “Towns are struggling plugging substantial revenue gaps in what normally would have come through property taxes.”

Working with the state, local governments are doing everything possible to mitigate property tax hikes says Dressel. He calls those increases a last resort.

“Various state agencies, the Department of Community Affairs and the Department of Taxation have been working with the towns to deal with this situation,” says Dressel. “This (Christie) Administration is working in a pro-active way with these communities.

Municipalities can draw down from their surplus for Sandy clean up and to pay for services typically covered by property taxes. The state is offering community disaster loans for towns with a 10-percent or more revenue loss as a result of the Superstorm.

Towns that would like to bond for extra revenue are now being given five years to pay back. The current law gives them only three. Federal Emergency Management Agency funding has recently been changed from 75 percent/25 percent match to a 90 percent-10 percent match.

“We’re re-writing the books quite frankly as it relates to this whole rebuilding process,” says Dressel. “I don’t think the final chapter has been written yet.”


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