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Battered homes in Seaside Heights, N.J. Superstorm Sandy may have another nasty surprise on the way: Higher taxes.
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Date published: 11/30/2012
TOMS RIVER, N.J.--Superstorm Sandy may have one more nasty surprise still to come: higher taxes.
The math is simple and cruel. The storm left fewer properties standing, often wrecking waterfront communities that paid the highest taxes because of the desirability of living near the water.
Unless shore towns from Rhode Island to New Jersey get a big influx of aid from the state and federal governments, which are themselves strapped for cash, they will have no choice but to raise taxes on homes and businesses that survived to make up for the loss. Even with federal reimbursement of 75 percent, the towns--many of which were already struggling before the storm--could still be on the hook for tens of millions of dollars.
"Hopefully taxes won't go up; we all have individual bills that we're going to have to worry about," said Ralph Isaacs, a 71-year-old retired teacher whose home in Long Beach, N.Y., was flooded with 18 inches of water, knocking out the electricity and heat and forcing him and his wife into a rented recreational vehicle for 17 days. "We're pretty sure the insurance money is not going to cover everything."
Toms River, where 5,000 residents are still out of their homes, recently passed a $35 million emergency appropriation; debris removal alone is costing it $1 million a week. The township's Ortley Beach section, where property values and taxes were highest, saw 225 homes destroyed. Administrator Paul Shives asked state officials this week for three to five years of extra state aid.
Right now, he said, it is impossible for towns like his to even consider formulating a budget without knowing how much tax money will be coming in. Shore towns especially are expecting a wave of tax appeals from storm-damaged or destroyed homes that will lower the towns' tax bases, though that doesn't appear to have begun in earnest yet.
The realities have touched off an intense push to get the federal government to assume the largest share of the cost. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo this week upped his state's reimbursement request from $30 billion to $42 billion; New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie asked Wednesday for $36.8 billion; and Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is asking for more than $3 billion.