Tuesday, May 25, 2010

TN flood victims will get property tax break

Reappraisals may help 10,500 flood sites in Davidson County By Chas Sisk • THE TENNESSEAN • May 25, 2010 Flood victims in Davidson County could get as much as $22.5 million in breaks on property taxes, and residents of other counties may qualify for millions of dollars more, under a bill approved Monday. State lawmakers have voted to let county property assessors revalue properties damaged by this month's flood, regardless of when owners decide to rebuild — a break that in Davidson County alone could affect 10,500 properties. The measure is one of several that lawmakers have weighed or are weighing to give flood victims a tax break and possibly also a state grant to help them rebuild. "If you've got a home that was originally appraised for $120,000 and now the property is only worth $40,000, it doesn't make sense to pay property taxes on $120,000," said Rep. Mike Turner, D-Old Hickory. "A couple of thousand dollars may not put you back whole, but it'll help you a little bit." House lawmakers passed the property tax break unanimously Monday, and the Senate approved the measure last week. A local city or county council also would have to approve the break by a two-thirds majority for it to go into effect. Metro officials support the tax break, saying the cost is small compared with the $650 million Davidson County brings in annually in property taxes. We've got people who have been absolutely devastated," said George Rooker Jr., Davidson County's property assessor. "If they're out of their homes for 30 days or more, they need as much help as they can get." Rep. Kent Coleman, a Murfreesboro Democrat whose district also covers Smyrna and La Vergne, said the break would have a minor effect on Rutherford County's budget but the benefit would be widely enjoyed by flood victims. "That's what the state should do and the county should do," Coleman said. The tax break is the first of several ideas to aid flood victims to clear the legislature. Lawmakers are considering a sales tax break for appliances, furniture and building materials to replace and repair homes damaged by the flood. Some lawmakers also would like to reallocate money now in the state's rainy-day fund or due from the federal government to give grants to flood victims. "That's money that should not be spent on fish hatcheries or museums," said Rep. Glen Casada, R-Franklin. "It needs to go to help our businesspeople and residents." Sept. 1 is deadline The Davidson County Property Assessor's Office said victims can apply for a prorated property tax reduction in each damaged property's assessment. Any building or improvement that sustained damage greater than 50 percent of its pre-flood value or has become unfit for use or occupancy before June 1 could qualify, according to the assessor's website at www.padctn.com. Property owners must apply by Sept. 1 through the assessor's website, by printing and mailing a form available there or by calling 615-862-6059. The assessor's office also could permanently reassess some properties. A prorated reduction wouldn't mean tax refunds for affected property owners, but it would affect what they would pay going forward, Rooker said.

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