Request for abatement on home destroyed by accidental fire stymies Reno County commission

Should owners of a home destroyed by an accidental fire receive the same tax break as owners who lose their homes in a wildfire?

The Reno County Commission struggled with that question Tuesday, but reached no answers.

While approving without discussion abating taxes on a seventh home destroyed in this spring’s wildfires, the commission tabled for two weeks an abatement request for a home that burned down in January, blamed on an electrical short.

The commission asked county staff to do further research on how many homes in the county burn down a year, and what counties of similar size to Reno County are doing.

The commission previously approved partial tax abatements on six other homes lost in the March wildfires, which destroyed nearly a dozen homes and forced widespread evacuations for several days.

Under state law, the county can abate the taxes on a property more than 50 percent damaged by a disaster, and the county was offering a partial abatement based on how much of the year remained from the date the home was destroyed.

Thus, the commission Tuesday granted Jack Redman an 84 percent abatement on the tax value of his $105,000 home at 803 Rolling Dunes.

County residents Everett Bennet and Pamela Gould, however, requested a 98 percent abatement on their home at 7700 N. Plum, destroyed by fire on Jan. 8.

The homeowners actually researched the issue and brought it to the attention of the County Clerk’s Office, which handles the abatement requests, reported Deputy Clerk Cindy Rehlander.

Apparently, the legislature changed the law in 2011 to allow any home heavily damaged or destroyed by fire to qualify for the abatement, not just those damaged by “natural disaster,” Rehlander reported.

(Read more: Local – The Hutchinson News)