TOPEKA — County governments could give property tax abatements or credits to people whose property is damaged or destroyed in natural disasters, such as the tornado that swept through Wichita last year, under a bill given initial approval in the Senate on Tuesday.
Senate Bill 165 lets property owners apply for property tax abatements after disasters or apply for credits if they’ve already paid a year’s worth of taxes on property that was destroyed part of the way through the year.
The bill, along with a similar one in the House, stems from the April 14 tornado in south Wichita that destroyed 11 houses and 134 mobile homes.
The damage wasn’t enough to trigger individual federal disaster aid.
Residents were dismayed to get tax bills for homes that had been destroyed. Current state law sets the property tax for the entire year based on the property value as of Jan. 1.
Republican Sens. Mike Petersen and Michael O’Donnell and Democratic Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau introduced the bill. Senators will take a final vote on it Wednesday.
House Bill 2063, which seeks to fix the same problem in a different way, is awaiting action from a House committee.
The House version was introduced by Reps. Brandon Whipple, D-Wichita, and Joe Edwards, R-Haysville.
Their bill would compensate disaster victims by providing a state tax credit for property taxes paid after the destruction of a home in a designated disaster area.
Both bills would relieve the property owner of tax liability for a disaster-destroyed home.
The main difference between the bills is that in the Senate version, local communities would have to absorb the cost in lost tax income, while under the House bill, the state would take on that responsibility.
Contributing: Dion Lefler of The Eagle