Editor's Note: Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi, R-Bergen and Passaic, and Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli, R-Somerset, Hunterdon, Mercer and Middlesex, released the following statement on a new bill exempting flood-prone lands from taxes:
Bipartisan legislation sponsored by Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi, R-Bergen and Passaic, and Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli, R-Somerset, Hunterdon, Mercer and Middlesex, that would exempt flood-prone properties acquired by municipalities from county, school and fire district property taxes for the following tax year, was approved by the General Assembly on Monday.
Under current law, if a municipality acquires such a property after Oct. 1, it must pay the county, school, and fire district property taxes owed for all or the remainder of the following tax year.
“The flooding caused by Superstorm Sandy last year and the devastation witnessed in 2011 by Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee has increased the awareness of towns that continuously deal with this problem,” said Schepisi. “A municipality should not be deterred from purchasing property from a willing seller because they cannot afford that property’s tax liability. Experience has taught us that once-in-a-generation storms are occurring more frequently and proper planning is needed to account for that possibility in order to limit the impact. ”
Municipalities receive grants for acquiring flood-prone property for conservation purposes under the Blue Acres Program. Towns may also receive funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for a similar purpose.
“One of the best solutions to correct repetitive flooding and provide relief to affected homeowners, whether at the Jersey Shore, or along the Delaware, Raritan or Millstone rivers, is for municipalities to use Blue Acres and FEMA programs to purchase homes in flood-prone areas,” said Ciattarelli. “With that in mind, we should be doing all we can to eliminate financial impediments and make the Blue Acres and FEMA programs as successful as possible.”
“Conservation programs, such as Blue Acres, or funds received from FEMA for acquiring properties that are chronically subject to flooding, are extremely beneficial in the effort to reduce the impact on a municipality” continued Schepisi. “The effort to preserve open space should not be derailed because a town cannot afford to assume the obligation of paying a seller’s property taxes. That financial responsibility may thwart an otherwise beneficial transaction to both the homeowner and the town.”
The bill, A-3362, is co-sponsored by Schepisi and Ciattarelli’s Assembly Republican colleagues, Mary Pat Angelini, Scott Rudder, Scott Rumana, Jay Webber and Amy Handlin and Democrats Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Timothy Eustace, Peter Barnes III, L.Grace Spencer, and Connie Wagner.