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Bill Relieves Towns of Taxes on Flood Buyouts

Westwood, and other towns participating in buyouts of flood-prone homes, are currently responsible for school and county taxes for the properties.

A new bill will provide tax relief for municipalities which participate in buyouts of flood-prone homes, if state lawmakers pass it.

Currently, towns like Westwood which are using state and federal grant money to purchase flood-prone homes will be responsible for paying the school and county taxes for the year in which the purchase is made. Borough officials previously told Patch this could cost between $22,000 and $49,000 next year, when the purchases will likely be made.

Westwood Mayor John Birkner previously described the tax as "a burden on the municipality."

Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi introduced a bill (A-3362) this week which would relieve towns of the tax burden by making the properties tax exempt upon the date of purchase. Homes purchased with money from the Blue Acres program, Green Acres program and FEMA would be included in the exemption.

"Based upon the timing a municipality closes on the purchase of a property, it may become liable for the tax obligation on these properties for the remainder of that tax year, causing a strain on its budget," Schepisi said in a press release. "That financial responsibility may thwart an otherwise beneficial transaction to both the homeowner and the town."

Westwood in grants from FEMA and the state's Green Acres program to use for buyouts of flood-prone homes after Hurricane Irene caused the Pascack Brook to overflow and damage homes.

The borough is currently waiting for state approval for appraisals done on the final homes in the running for buyouts. Officials have said that between four and eight homes may be purchased.

Have a question or news tip? Contact editor Jim Leggate at Jim.Leggate@patch.com, or find us on Facebook and Twitter. For news straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

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