Brick’s recovery from Superstorm Sandy is a “slow and ongoing process,” said Mayor John Ducey, on the eve of the storm’s three-year anniversary. “It’s three years later and there are still many people who are not back in their homes.”
Like most Shore towns, Brick has added staff and lobbied state officials to help. After the storm struck, Ducey said, Brick ended a shared services agreement with Toms River where that township provided inspection services to Brick.
“We went out and we hired our own inspectors because there are so many inspectors that are needed,” Ducey said. “There was no way an agreement with Toms River would work anymore.”
It was a decision with which Toms River agreed, themselves strapped for inspectors to speed up the permitting process there. Since then, Brick has been getting along with its inspection staff as well as a group of inspectors on loan from the state Department of Community Affairs, who will remain in Brick at least into the summer of 2016.
“Having that extra help makes the process go faster, but we are still overwhelmed,” said Ducey.
[box type=”shadow” align=”” class=”” width=””]By the Numbers: Rebuilding Brick Since Sandy
- 471: The number of demolition permits issued since Sandy.
- 74: The number of homes completely destroyed in the storm where no demolition permit was required.
- 354: The number of new homes that have received building permits since Sandy. (A small number are not Sandy-related, according to Joanne Bergin, township administrator.)[/box]
Since Sandy struck, Brick has also received assistance from the federal government to make up for the amount of its tax base lost during the storm.
Here’s how the process works: Each home in Brick has an assessed value, on which a resident’s property tax bill is based. If that home is heavily damaged or destroyed, for obvious reasons, its value declines. With thousands of homes having suffered damage, the impact on the tax base was tremendous. The remainder of the township’s residents have made up the difference, though the sting of a higher tax bill has been eased with an influx of federal dollars designed to bridge the gap.
That federal grant – known as an Essential Services Grant – will no longer be offered.
“I’m still lobbying very much for the continuation of the essential services grant,” said Ducey. “Our town, along with every other town, hasn’t recovered as quickly as people had thought. The state told us, ‘you’ll be back in three to five years.’ Well it’s three years, and we’re not even close.”
The Essential Services Grant has also been used by the county government, where the same concepts of real estate valuation and its tax implications play out on a larger scale.
Just 13 percent of Brick’s tax base lost in the storm has been recovered as of 2015, according to Township Administrator Joanne Bergin.
[box type=”shadow” align=”” class=”” width=””]By the Numbers: A Sandy-Sized Dent in Brick’s Tax Base
- $10,624,568,973: Brick’s tax ratable base in 2012.
- $10,202,627,128: Brick’s tax ratable base in 2013.
- $421,941,845: The amount of real estate valuation that was lost between the 2012 and 2013 tax years.
- $10,258,014,969: Brick’s tax ratable base in 2015.
- $55,387,841: The amount of ratable base recovered since Sandy, based on 2015 numbers. In all, a 13.12 percent recovery.
- $366,554,004: The amount of Brick’s ratable base that remains lost from the tax rolls.[/box]
With recovery still a long way from being complete, local officials are hoping relief will continue.
“It’s just a very expensive ordeal, and it wouldn’t be fair for FEMA or the state to abandon us at this point,” said Ducey.