Waitsfield has abated a portion of the municipal property taxes for at least three property owners after two hearings of the town’s board of abatement.
The board of abatement met on September 15 and October 7 to hear requests from five taxpayers seeking relief following the August 28 flooding from Hurricane Irene.
The board heard a reguest from Barbara Gulisano, on behalf of Jason Gulisano, owner of the blue building on Bridge Street that houses the Green Cup Cafe, Cheap Thrills and several other businesses as well as living space on the second floor. She told the board that during the flooding most of the foundation had been washed away as the water entered the first floor of the building. The building next door came off its foundation and crashed into the blue building damaging it. The first floor is being completely gutted and cannot support any of the businesses. The second floor was untouched by water but had no heat or hot water at the time of the hearing. Although there are businesses operating post-flood, no one can live there and once the cold weather arrives, those businesses on the second floor will have to vacate unless heat and hot water in the building becomes available.
The board abated $2,114.55 of the property taxes for that building.
Eugene Jarecki and Claudia Becker, who own property on Route 100 across from Yestermorrow, requested an abatement of taxes for two parcels. They told the board that two of the three homes on the property are unlivable and that all of the farm land on the property (4.5 acres) was devastated during the August flood. They are living in the original, main house on the property, but, at the time of the hearing, the house has no hot water and partial electricity. They don’t expect the house to have all its utilities fully working until February 2012.
The board abated $2,414.46 of their property taxes.
Stephen Zonies, owner of Valley Dental requested an abatement of 2011 taxes for his flooded offices in Fiddler’s Green. Zonies said that the property contains an office on the first floor which he uses for his dental practice and the second floor has apartments that he rents out. His tenants had no hot water or power for the first month following the flood. He expects to be out of the office area for about four months.
The board abated $1,337.03 for Zonies.
In Moretown, there were some 60 properties damaged by the flooding and property taxes are due November 1. According to Moretown Town Clerk Cheryl Brown, there have been no requests for abatement received by the town.
When towns abate property taxes, normally the lost tax revenue is made up by other taxpayers. Towns can only abate municipal taxes. The state of Vermont this week announced plans to help towns that have to abate property taxes for citizens whose homes and properties were damaged or destroyed. The plan will authorize the tax department to set up procedures to reimburse towns’ statewide education tax abatements.
The plan will require legislative approval when lawmakers return to Montpelier in January.
The Vermont League of Cities and Towns worked with the administration and lawmakers to develop the bill. Executive director Steve Jeffrey stated, “While abatements remain a local decision, we have a statewide property tax. This measure will spread some of the cost of abatements across the state, giving towns the tools to grant relief to the hardest hit property owners.”
Reimbursement of abated education taxes will be approved when the local boards of abatements make four findings:
· The property damage was due to a 2011 federal declared disaster;
· Municipal and educations taxes are proportionately reduced;
· The primary structure on the property suffered at least a 50 percent value loss; and
· The property owner lost use of the primary structure for at least 90 days.
The reimbursement will only cover the taxes for the portion of the year during which the use of the property was lost. The state anticipates the reimbursed abatements will total about $2 million to $4 million, money that will come from the Education Fund.