In the weeks after Hurricane Sandy damaged thousands of New Jersey shore homes and businesses, town and county governnments warned that property owners who didn't suffer direct damage might end up shouldering the burden of taxes previously paid by owners whose properties lost assessed value because of the storm.

So far, that worst-case scenario has not come to pass on the shore, reports the Asbury Park Press ("Spikes in local taxes averted by post-Sandy federal funds," by Susanne Cervenka
and Erik Larsen).

"The fear of wildly increased property taxes sparked by superstorm Sandy did not pan out this year for most homeowners affected by the superstorm, thanks mostly to emergency federal funds," the Press reports. "But could the so-called "Sandy tax" — an increase in local tax bills caused by billions of dollars in lost property value from storm damage — happen next year? The short answer: maybe. No one will know the full impact on taxes until the next round of local budgets is approved in 2014."

The loss in value was real: In hard-hit Mantaloking, where hundreds of high-end homes were totaled, the average assessed value of properties fell by almost a million dollars. But the effects vary widely: Nearby Bay Head and Harvey Ceders, by contrast, saw little change in average valuation. Complicating the picture further is the fact that property value losses related to the housing market crash loom larger than storm damage losses in many shore towns. "The net taxable property value in Monmouth County is down almost $1.6 billion," the Press reports, "but only about $504 million of that is attributed to Sandy, according to county records."

In the long run, rebuilding after Sandy may boost shore town property values. Says Lavallette Mayor Walter G. LaCicero: "No one is replacing small houses with small houses. A house that was worth $100,000 on the tax rolls is being replaced with a house worth $300,000."