HARVEY, La. - Westbank property owners gathered at the public library in Harvey to get a look at thelatest preliminary flood insurance rate maps.
The FEMA maps indicate that more than 5,300 properties in Jefferson Parish are being moved into higher risk flood zones.
Homeowner Darryl Falgout is quite concerned.
"My bill, from what I'm hearing, will go from $375 to over $4,000," said Falgout. "I have never flooded. I'm on a ridge and it just doesn't make sense."
Jefferson Parish Tax Assessor Tom Capella calls the potential increases "prohibitive."
"If the federal government in its wisdom sees fit to make these people pay those numbers for flood insurance, then we'll have to help them," said Capella.
Capella says he's working with other parish leaders to come up with a process of reducing assessments for property owners facing a severe spike in the cost of insurance because of their new flood zone designation.
"Obviously, that would make their property less valuable," said Capella. "We would have to take a look at that probably on a case by case basis, unless it's in a section maybe outside the levee protection district where we can put it in a whole area."
Meanwhile, JP leaders are urging Congress and the federal government to give the impact of the new flood zones more study.
"It is very much against our recovery and against our ability to stabilize the housing market when you have anomalies like this that occur where you're talking about flood insurance going from about $1,000 a year to $15,000 plus a year.
Roberts said those types of increases should trigger Capella's office to reassess the property. "It limits who you can sell the property to," said JP Council Chairman Chris Roberts. "It limits the ability to re-market the property. In that sense, it certainly has an impact on the value of the property."
"If it's a significant jump in their flood insurance, in order to insure their home, obviously we'll take that into account under an obsolescence, an incurable obsolescence philosophy and bring the value of their property down," said Capella.
Property owners say lower property taxes won't make up for higher insurance costs.
"I'd rather pay property tax than what these insurance bills are going to be," said Falgout. "It's perplexing at best."
FEMA now expects Jefferson Parish to adopt the new flood maps by the end of the year.