Sunday, January 27, 2013
Some state lawmakers want to do more to help the victims of natural disasters.
Two Wichita area legislators have introduced a bill that would give people whose homes are destroyed a property tax break.
Many people who lost their houses in the Pinaire Mobile Home Park near Oaklawn to an April 14 tornado were surprised to learn they still owed property taxes for the entire year. That's something lawmakers want to make sure does not happen again.
"I was irate," said William Richter. "I was very upset."
William and his wife, Lynn, lost their home in April, but because current Kansas law sets the value of each home for tax purposes on Jan. 1 each year, they were liable for the entire year's property tax bill.
"We were put under enough strain on the rebuild as it was," Mr. Richter said. "All these catastrophes happening and then the taxman wants more than his share."
The Richters are not the only frustrated homeowners.
"If it had been half a year, it wouldn't have been so bad, but they had to have it all," said Robert Folsom, who also lost his home in the tornado.
Those with insurance did not even technically own their houses once they received money from their insurance company.
"They still have to pay the taxes on their old house and they feel they shouldn't have to," said Dan Hale, manager of the mobile home park.
Rep. Brandon Whipple, D-Wichita, does not think storm victims should have to pay the entire year's property taxes either, so he has co-authored legislation to change that.
"The way this works is, if a tornado was to hit your house today, and you have to then pay property taxes for the full year, when you file your taxes, the state will reimburse you," Whipple said.
If House Bill 2063 passes, homeowners in a federally declared disaster area who suffer damage to at least 50 percent of their homes will later receive the reimbursement. The abatement is determined by a formula based on when during the year the disaster happens.
Whipple and the measure's co-author, Rep. Joe Edwards, R-Haysville, have had no trouble convincing fellow lawmakers to support the bill. Legislators see it as a common sense proposal.
"Imagine if your house was hit by a tornado, you lose your house, you lose all your possessions, you have to start fro scratch and then a few months later, you get a bill from the government," Whipple said.
House Bill 2063 has been referred to the House Taxation Committee. Whipple is hoping it will receive a hearing soon.