Niagara Gazette

January 31, 2014

Flood bills pushed

By Justin Sondel
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Flood victims could see additional protections from the state if a trio of bills that passed the state senate this week find support in the assembly.

The bills, all co-sponsored by Republican state Sen. George Maziarz of Newfane would help property owners by lowering assessments based on damage and establishing a tax credit program and a New York State Disaster Recovery Program to offer victims of severe weather events more options after storms.

Last summer, many Niagara County municipalities were affected by two severe weather events with a June 28 storm causing heavy flooding in Lockport and a July 26 storm causing flooding in Niagara Falls, Lewiston and the Town of Niagara. The July storm also disabled equipment at the Niagara Falls Wastewater Treatment Plant causing millions of gallons of raw sewage to flow into the Niagara River.

Maziarz said many residents have received storm relief funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, but many more are still waiting to hear back on the status of their applications.

"I'm a little concerned about the slowness in getting people answers," Maziarz said. "Some people have gotten paid and some people haven't gotten answers yet."

The home assessment bill would allow municipalities in the state to offer reduced assessments to property owners who suffered a loss of "substantial value" as a result of the severe storms, according to a release from Maziarz's Albany office.

In addition, school districts offering the reduced assessments would be held harmless by the state.

The income tax credit would help victims by reducing their state taxes by an amount equal to real property taxes paid on property severely damaged during storms.

The disaster recovery program would establish a relief fund to act as a safeguard when Federal Emergency Management Authority funds were not available to flood victims.

Maziarz said the laws, if enacted, would offer more certainty to property owners in the wake of a storm.

"These bills try to move the process along and to address concerns long term," Maziarz said.

Maziarz said the bills have sponsors in the other chamber of the state legislature including Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi, D-Utica.

The senator is optimistic that that the legislation will make it to the floor of the assembly this session, he added.

"I'm certainly hopeful it will be acted on," Maziarz said.

Contact reporter Justin Sondel at 282-2311, ext. 2257