Sep. 23--The Memorial Day tornado outbreak forced people to find new homes and start the rebuilding process, but state law changes could make reducing their tax burdens a little easier.
Ohio lawmakers are expected to consider new legislation that would speed up the process of devaluing damaged or destroyed properties, which could significantly reduce next year's tax obligations.
State Rep. Rick Perales, R-Beavercreek, has worked with Greene County Auditor David Graham on the language to amend the state law.
Perales said this would provide county auditors a way to preempt the sometimes lengthy process for homeowners to apply to reduce tax bills in the event of a natural disaster but also for isolated incidents such as fires that result in damage of more than $1,000.
"After the Memorial Day experience there was a lot of hurry up and wait for the federal government to respond," Perales said Sunday. "The one thing we know is we will have natural disasters. We will have fires. This is a way that we can help people who are in disasters who have a thousand things to think about instead of the tax bill from a county auditor."
Perales said he'll be seeking co-sponsors on the bill, to which he doesn't expect to receive much opposition.
The Dayton Daily News requested and obtained the list of damaged and destroyed properties whose owners have applied for devaluations for tax purposes with the Greene County Auditor's Office.
The auditor's office has received 152 applications this year to reduce valuations on damaged or destroyed properties (including those not impacted by the tornado), according to the records. That's 100 more than the average number of applications the office received annually the previous 10 years. During that time frame, more than 517 property owners had applied for valuation adjustments, according to the records.
According to Greene County's latest tally, Memorial Day tornadoes destroyed 86 homes and businesses, majorily damaged 206 buildings, 395 sustained minor damages and 756 were affected.
Stages of recovery
Among those destroyed was Joyce Bachman's parents' farm on Graham Drive in Beavercreek.
Bachman said it was difficult meeting all the requirements in applying to get a lower tax bill as a result of the destruction. One of the requirements was getting photos of the damaged property, which she found out wasn't necessary because the office already knew the property was destroyed from aerial photography.
"I had to do a lot of running around, getting pictures, getting it notorized, then all they wanted was paperwork," Bachman said. "it would be great if we could do (property devaluations) faster."
Bachman said she has been wrangling with the insurance company, which delivered estimates so low they were "pathetic." After finally getting a more appropriate estimate, she hopes to start building in the coming weeks.
Judith Peckolt applied July 5 for a reduction to the value of her Wendover Drive home, which was considered a total loss estimated at $170,000. Contractors are now installing drywall.
"I applied for it right away and I haven't heard a thing," Peckolt said. "I'm still paying my monthly tax."
Peckolt's annual property tax bill is about $2,000 a year. She said she pays $271 a month for a five-month period to cover the cost. Any reduction on her taxes because of the tornado won't be relfected until next year's bill.
Peckolt said she's living in Kettering with the help of her insurance company paying rent. She hopes to move back to her new home in December.
"Half of my house was gone. I've lived there 50 years," she said. "It's going to be a lot different."
Connie Garwood moved back last week in to her North Knoll Drive home, which sustained more than $50,000 in damages to the exterior. The roof, siding and other parts of her home have been replaced, but her mature trees and extensive landscaping are all gone.
"It's been difficult to do this virtually by myself. At times, it's been overwhelming," Garwood said.
Garwood said she hopes the tornado leads to new legislation that lessens the stresses homeowners go through after a natural disaster.
"Even if it's short-term, anything is a benefit," she said. "I think this is a process. (City and county officials) were overwhelmed. this is new for them too ... It's appreciated, all their hard work."
The city of Beavercreek along with other local governments are working with the Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission in applying for reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency on costs associated with the response and clean-up following the tornado.
FEMA last met with local officials in July and they were expected to return in two weeks, then the next meeting was pushed back to after Labor Day.
"Basically we hear next week nearly every week," said Beavercreek City Manager Pete Landrum. "You can see progress in the areas on rebuilding and repairing, but it will continue to be an ongoing process."
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