WAHOO – The Saunders County Board of Equalization was handed 81 destroyed real property claims Tuesday morning.
The forms came as a result of the March flooding and a new state law that allows property owners to ask for tax relief if they suffered significant damage as a result of a calamity occurring on or after Jan. 1 and before July 1.
Form 425, which is a report of destroyed real property, had to be filed by July 15 and the Board of Equalization had to take action on those claims this week.
The board went through each of the filings and looked at previous value, current value and recommendation for re-assessment.
Equalization Board Chairman Scott Sukstorf said there was not much the board could to do but deny some of the requests for lower valuation.
“That 20 percent is the kicker,” he said.
Per LB512’s criteria, destroyed real property damage on building or land must exceed 20 percent of the assessed value in the current tax year as determined by the county assessor.
One of the filings that did not receive a lower property valuation, for example, was a home in Thomas Lakes that reported an inhabitable bottom level because of the flood waters. However, the finish value of that lower level was less than 20 percent of the rest of the house.
There were also instances were those filing Form 425 did not provide documentation of the destruction or would not grant access for an inspection.
Sukstorf said those property did not receive any valuation changes.
There were properties, however, that did see changes.
For example, there was a lot with a house at Thomas Lakes that was swept into the river by the flood waters. This was labeled a complete loss of property.
There were several houses throughout the county’s flooded areas that were reduced to $10,000 plus market percentage.
Saunders County Head Appraiser Kyle Morgan explained that it even if the entire structure was rendered uninhabitable, as long as it was still standing it had to have some value on it.
“That has been a policy in the county for a long time,” he said. “We can’t say all of a sudden you have zero value.”
If that building is removed prior to Jan. 1, however, he told those property owners they should contact his office as that would impact next year’s assessments.
The claims for destroyed property were not just for buildings though. The flood waters eroded land, deposited sand and drug along much debris.
Sukstorf pointed out that having water flood on the land was not reason alone for a valuation decrease. Just like on the buildings, there had to be documented proof that the flood caused at least 20 percent of the parcel of land had to be destroyed.
Board Member Dave Lutton acknowledged that sand and debris removal came at a cost for landowners. But he said if the land was used for production this year or could even be put back into production by next year, it didn’t necessarily meet the criteria.
Saunders County Assessor/Register of Deeds Rhonda Andresen said just like there was a minimum value for a building, a $100 minimum value for land will is being created as well.
There were also several instances Tuesday when property owners were told there wasn’t much relief that could be granted by LB512, but there was possible cause to seek a valuation change next year.
For example, a property owner near Morse Bluff claimed the flooding and levy break caused a permanent change in water flow that will continue to affect the property in the future.
“That is a different protest,” Lutton said.
Morgan agreed. He said if there were situations like that, assessments would be looked at with the necessary documentation in hand.
“We can’t value based on hypothetical,” he added.
After going through each of the 81 filings separately, the board approved a blanket motion to approve or deny reassessments as recommended.
Property owners who do not agree with the action taken on their property now have 30 days to protest.
Those claims that were submitted without documentation could also be reconsidered, if the necessary proof was submitted within that window.
“There is 30 days to protest and bring in more information,” Andresen said.