Residents living in Valley Stream’s high-risk flood zone should challenge their property assessments, leaders of the Valley Stream Community Association and a property tax expert said on Dec. 10.
About 25 residents attended the Community Association’s meeting at Central High School, which focused on property tax relief. Joseph Margolin, a Community Association board member and a resident of the high-risk flood zone in Gibson, said he challenged his assessment last year and received about $2,300 in annual tax relief.
Margolin said that residents in Valley Stream’s flood zone should add a note to their appeal, explaining that the designation de-values their homes. He explained that since the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s new flood maps went into effect in 2009, which included most of Gibson, homes in the neighborhood are now hard to sell. “Once in a blue moon you’ll see something from Gibson even listed,” he said.
Ann-Margaret Bonventure, of RSB Property Tax Consultants in Valley Stream, agreed that flood zone homes are worth less. She said it is unlikely someone would buy a home in the flood zone when they could purchase a home elsewhere in Valley Stream and still get the same services without being forced to pay for flood insurance.
She said that the number of residential assessment appeals has steadily risen in the past few years as homeowners are seeking any way possible to get some tax relief. A majority of appeals are successful at the county level, she said, meaning residents can see a break on their county, town, school and special district taxes.
Residents of the village, she said, must also file a separate appeal to seek relief on their village taxes, however those challenges are less successful.
Bonventure explained that government needs the same amount of money to operate so when one person’s taxes are reduced, everyone else pays more to make up the difference.
Margolin pointed out that Gibson homeowners living in the Hewlett-Woodmere School District could see an even greater tax hike than average next year. He said many homes suffered flood damage from Hurricane Sandy, and if the value of those homes is lowered, or if they come off the tax rolls altogether, the district could have to look to everyone else to cover the difference to fund its budget. It’s better to absorb a tax increase on a lower assessment than a higher one, he explained.
County assessment challenges can be filed from Jan. 1 through March 1, Bonventure explained, although any changes wouldn’t take effect until October 2014. For the village, there is a two-week window in February to file an appeal.
Residents could hire an expert like Bonventure to file the appeal on their behalf, or complete the application on their own. Tax professionals, as their fee, typically get 40 to 50 percent of any refund. Bonventure said the process can seem overwhelming, but is really not that complicated.
Carol Crupi, president of the Community Association, gave an update on the situation with the flood maps. She said FEMA was supposed to hold a community meeting in November, but that was pushed back because of Hurricane Sandy. It is now scheduled for Jan. 3 in the Village Hall courtroom.
She said residents will have an opportunity to question FEMA representatives. The agency, at the direction of Congress, must re-draw Nassau County’s flood maps using relevant, local data.
Community Association leaders said that was the problem in the first place. FEMA never sought information from the village which, according to local officials, has records dating back to 1938 indicating that the Gibson section of Valley Stream has never experienced significant coastal flooding.
Margolin said during a community meeting with FEMA officials two years ago, also at Central, residents were told historical evidence was used to create the maps. To this day, Margolin said he has never received an answer as to what that evidence was.
Crupi said that when a meeting with FEMA is scheduled, the Community Association will promote it heavily and encourage residents to attend. “If you are at all involved with the flood zone, you should be there,” she said. “They have to see that 2,500 people in Gibson are still angry about the way they were tossed into the flood zone.”