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The City Council announced this week that it will hold an emergency hearing to investigate reports that numerous people whose homes were damaged in Hurricane Sandy, including some who live in the Rockaways, have had their property tax assessments raised.
The emergency hearing will be jointly held by the Council’s Finance and Community Development committees Feb. 26. Representatives from the Department of Finance, which had sent the assessment notices to homeowners, will be invited to testify as well as the Independent Budget Office, the Queens Civic Congress and other organizations.
Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) said the news of the assessments was startling and troubling.
“It raises real doubts about whether DOF is doing enough to ensure fair and accurate assessments, and how it is communicating this with the public,” she said.
“As New Yorkers work to rebuild their homes and lives, we cannot allow them to be hit twice,” she said.
But the Department of Finance said the property tax assessment rolls that were released in January are not yet final and determining the assessments is an ongoing process.
“These are tentative assessments,” said Finance spokesman Owen Stone. “We’re not done, basically.”
He said the agency has received information from the city Department of Buildings on property damage, has sent assessors out in the field to evaluate damage to homes in person and are reviewing damage forms homeowners have filed.
“We’re taking all that into account as we revise values,” Stone said.
He said homeowners may appeal their assessments until March 15 and final rolls will not be released until May.
State Assemblyman Philip Goldfeder (D-Ozone Park), whose district covers the Rockaways, said his office has received many calls from Sandy-hit homeowners who have complained that their assessments have gone up.
To address the issue he sponsored legislation that would give the city the ability to retroactively reassess and revalue tax bills. Under the legislation, homeowners would be able apply to have their homes reassessed and could receive a tax reduction if they lost 50 percent or more of their previously assessed property values.
“The best I can do is give the city the tools they need to take corrective action,” he said, saying action is ultimately in the hands of Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the Department of Finance.
The bill passed in the state Assembly earlier this month, but would still need to be passed by the state Senate.
Reach reporter Karen Frantz by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4538.
©2013 Community Newspaper Group
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