Deadline to apply for tornado tax relief approaching


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WICHITA, Kan. -- More than a year-and-a-half after an EF-3 tornado moved through the Wichita metro area, some residents are still working to recover from the storm.

Help is still available for homeowners in southeastern Sedgwick County, but it will not be around much longer.

Oaklawn was one of the areas hardest hit by that tornado on April 14, 2012. Some of the homeowners affected by that storm can have a portion of their 2012 property taxes reimbursed. There are only a little more than two weeks left to apply.

"There are still people out here building," said Andree Sisco, an Oaklawn resident and member of the Oaklawn Improvement District board. "So people are making their homes look better as we move along."

One of the reasons residents are still rebuilding, Sisco said, is property owners have been working to clear all of the financial hurdles.

"A majority of our landlords did have insurance," she said. "Of course, the way insurance works, they do their best also, but everything is not always covered."

Property owners who live in the area that Gov. Sam Brownback declared a disaster after the tornado who also did not all costs covered by insurance can apply to have much of their 2012 property taxes returned. Applications are due to the Sedgwick County Clerk's Office by Dec. 20.

"If the Governor has declared it as a disaster, you are eligible for this tax abatement," County Clerk Kelly Arnold said.

The tax abatement was approved earlier this year by Kansas legislators, who argued it did not make sense to require property owners to pay taxes on property that had been destroyed.

"To sit there and look at a piece of property that used to have a home on it and now it doesn't and to sit there and say, 'Well, I'm still paying my property taxes on a home that's no longer there,' it just doesn't necessarily seem fair," Arnold said.

Sisco said any property owners who think they may qualify for the tax refund should apply.

"The old theory like with food: 'When in doubt throw it out.' Well, in this case, when in doubt, fill it out because you may be surprised," she said. "You may be eligible."

Property owners wishing to find out whether they live in the declared disaster area or if they meet other eligibility requirements can call the Sedgwick County Clerk's Office at 316-660-9221.


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