Mayor: Tax hike 1 year after historic Highland Falls flooding a result of denied grant request

The Federal Emergency Management Agency denied disaster assistance for more than 100 homeowners following the storm.

Ben Nandy

Jul 8, 2024, 9:13 PM

Updated 10 days ago


Residents of Highland Falls received more bad news just ahead of the first anniversary of a historic storm that flooded homes from water that rushed in from two directions – the Village Board just voted to raise property taxes by more than 4%.
Nearly nine inches of rain fell on eastern Orange County on July 9, 2023. Water rolled into the village from hills north and west of the village, which are owned by the federal and state governments, and from Highland Brook.
"It's eating away at the foundation here," said Brian Frederickson, pointing beneath his family's home at a growing void caused by erosion.
Frederickson, an NYPD officer and father of five, has been picking up triple-shifts at work and is considering taking out a loan to fix the retaining wall that gave way behind his home during the storm. He said it would likely cost more than $200,000.
"Do we leave the house? Do we take the hit to the credit? Do we try to rent? Do we try to love on?" Frederickson wondered aloud. "But I'm still working. I got young kids. Right now, the best bet is staying in the house until all options are exhausted."
The Federal Emergency Management Agency denied disaster assistance for more than 100 homeowners following the storm. Many families, including the Fredericksons, did not meet the low-income requirements to be candidates for assistance through a state home repair grant program created by Gov. Kathy Hochul shortly after the storm.
Highland Falls officials said they recently applied for a separate infrastructure grant, also through FEMA, to repair all of Highland Brook.
"Yeah, that was denied," said Village Mayor Joe D'Onofrio, adding that he is exploring other more creative ways to secure funding.
"We have to get [Department of Environmental Conservation] permission. We have to get a permit," he said of the process. "We have to get a grant because the village could never afford to clean the brook out. It's a mile long, but it has to be done."
FEMA and the state government are covering most of the costs of repairs to government-owned infrastructure. FEMA is covering 75% and the state is covering 12.5% - leaving village taxpayers to cover the remaining 12.5%, or about $5 million.
State Sen. James Skoufis said he is trying to secure state funding to soften another financial blow to local families.
"We want to avoid, mitigate, or in one case in the Town of Highlands, unwind a massive property tax increase," Skoufis said.
D'Onofrio said the property tax hike was directly due to infrastructure repair costs.

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