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Hurricane Andrew also knocks down tax bills

Hurricane Andrew blew in a gust of good news to as many as 80,000 property owners in Dade County as their tax bills will drop sharply this year because of storm damage.

"About 60,000 to 80,000 people will get reductions," said Assistant Property Appraiser Herbert C. Parlato. "It might be more."

The tax appraisals will be mailed in August, a year after the hurricane caused more than $30-billion in damage to become the costliest natural disaster in the nation's history.

Damage from the Aug. 24 storm decreased the value of thousands of Dade homes and businesses.

Homeowners welcomed news of the windfall.

Marjorie Bowen paid $2,000 in property taxes last year on her south Dade County home.

But the hurricane rendered it uninhabitable. Bowen said she was glad to hear that her taxes might go down.

"It's great," said Bowen, who recently moved back to her home. "But there's been so much work and aggravation."

County officials say it's too early to determine how much the tax assessments will drop.

However, the lower assessments will mean lower revenues for local governments.

The Florida Legislature pledged to give Dade County's government up to $50-million this year to make up for losses in property tax revenues.

Funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency also will help, officials said.