By Lauren Wanko
The sun peaks through the clouds over Manasquan. The gentle waves roll over the sand. But this morning’s serene ocean water is a striking contrast to the devastated beachfront homes Sandy left behind. Soon after the storm, a tax assessor conducted visual inspections of the community’s damaged homes.
“We have about $1.5 billion in ratables in town,” said Manasquan Council President Edward Donovan. “We lost approximately $77 million in ratables.”
Donovan says the loss in ratables — properties that are taxable — is temporary. “There will be probably some loss of ratables that we will never recover but most of the loss of ratables that we’re recording right now will come back when the people make the repairs to their homes,” he said.
There are about 2,000 homes in Manasquan. Sixty percent were impacted by the storm. Right after Sandy hit, 60 homes were deemed structurally unsound and another 600 homes were deemed uninhabitable.
A dramatic loss in ratables is a reality shore towns are now facing along the coast. The division of Local Government Services estimates more than a dozen municipalities could lose at least 10 percent of their tax bases. Meantime, Manasquan is exploring options like a short-term, low interest loan, but there’s no denying taxpayers will shoulder some of the cost.
“Oh I think that there’s definitely going to be an increase in property taxes,” Donovan said. “I think it’s probably going to be spread out a little differently because of the people who’s properties have been valued at a lower assessed value that is going to impact the people in town who weren’t impacted directly by the storm are now gonna be impacted by the storm because their taxes are going to go up.”
Like Manasquan homeowner Marlene Martin. “Well I was fortunate that my house wasn’t damaged so I’ll be glad to pay the money in taxes. Manasquan is a great town so I really can’t complain until I get the bill,” she said.
One Brick resident expects property taxes to shoot up in shore communities throughout the state. “Naturally I don’t like it, basically there’s nothing you can do about it right now,” he said.
Manasquan typically adopts the budget in March, but Donovan doesn’t expect to adopt the 2013 budget until much later in the year. And like so many other shore communities, officials here say they’re determined to welcome back tourists by the summer season.