Posted at: 09/27/2013 12:10 AM
By: Dan Levy
SCHOHARIE - More than two years after Tropical Storm Irene ravaged the Schoharie Valley, elected officials there now say they have a plan tin place to recoup their most precious losses.
In the aftermath of Irene, Schoharie County gained the unenviable distinction of ranking number one in the state in the category "lost populous". Elected officials would love to see those numbers reversed and they're hoping tax abatements become the carrot at the end of the stick.
August 28, 2011 was a day that changed everything in Schoharie County. It wasn't until the flood waters receded and then evaporated until the real damage could be quantified. Properties were destroyed, resident with neither the patience nor the means to rebuild, simply left town, and that exodus left Schoharie without 40% of its tax based.
"The tax burden is shouldered by those of us who are still here," said Schoharie Supervisor Gene Milone.
To recoup the lost tax revenue, Milone took a look at the local laws and realized there were already tax abatement provisions on the books to help new business owners, and so he figured, why not apply the same laws to help homeowners take advantage of properties abandoned after Irene.
"What we're looking to do is have those parcels rebuilt on, have them rehabilitated," Milone says. "We want to open our doors to anyone who may be looking to take advantage of these tax abatements and come into our community."
For first time homeowners, there'd be a 5-year tax break. For reconstruction or improvements to existing properties, you'd get an 8-year tax break. If you build living space for your parents or grandparents, as long as they're over age 62, you'd also get a tax break. And if you convert commercial space into residential living, you'd see a dozen years of tax breaks.
"What we're basically talking about here is: tax dollars that we're not currently collecting," Milone states.
"If it promotes a half a dozen people moving back in and spending and fixing up properties that aren't on the tax rolls right now, then that's what we want to do," says Schoharie Councilman Alan Tavenner.
There's also a plan to market their tax abatement program in the media, and to make sure realtors utilize the plan as a selling tool.
"Nothing ventured, nothing gained," Milone asserts, "It can't hurt us. It can only help us if it takes foothold."
The town represents just one of several taxing entities. That's why Milone says he'd like to see the village, the school district, and the county board of supervisors climb aboard and offer similer tax breaks.