Wildfire Victims Still Have To Pay Property Tax Because Of State Law
LUTHER, Oklahoma - Imagine, losing your house in a wildfire and then, guess what? You still have to pay property taxes on the house that burned down. That is exactly what is happening to wildfire victims across the state.
Carl Brown's Luther home burned down in early August.
"There's no house there, that's a ridiculous law," Brown said.
State law says the assessor can adjust property values if the disaster happens before July 31. Since Carl's house burned down three days after the deadline, he and all his neighbors have to pay taxes for the whole year.
"We can't do anything under the current statutes," said Larry Stein, the Chief Deputy for the Oklahoma County Assessor.
In Creek County, the county assessor says she is adjusting the value of the property, despite the law.
"I'm treating my taxpayers the way I would like to be treated by my assessor," said assessor JaNell Enlow.
But in Oklahoma County the assessor's office says they have to act within the law. However, they are looking to change it. Stein has already begun crafting a proposal that would allow assessors to revalue property in cases of disaster year round.
"If we can document those damages and bring the Board of Tax Roll Corrections, under the provisions that we are proposing, we can do it any time during the year instead of during a certain set of time frames," said Stein.
The new law would be too late to help Brown and his neighbors, but Stein says he at least hopes to salvage some change from the ashes.
Stein says he thinks legislators are receptive to changing the law.