The Gazette covers City Hall, now a flood-damaged icon on May's Island in the Cedar River

One route to property-tax relief for flood victims closes; still can qualify if 65 or older or totally disabled and have income below $20,031

In Floods, Linn County government on April 8, 2009 at 12:56 pm

They wanted to. They did it. But they can’t, Gary Jarvis, assistant Linn County Attorney, told the Linn County Board of Supervisors on Wednesday.

The upshot: Owners of flood-damaged property, for now, will face property-tax bills based on the pre-flood value of their properties, and they also will face a county tax sale of their property in June if they don’t pay the tax bill.

Jarvis told the supervisors on Wednesday that their decision last week to suspend the property taxes of flood victim Dana Spore of Cedar Rapids was an incorrect one. He said the particular section of state law on which the supervisors relied limits such tax suspensions to those 65 or older or those totally disabled. The intent of the longstanding state law is to not force the elderly and totally disabled to lose their property for not paying taxes. The unpaid taxes are then recouped when the person dies and the property is sold, Jarvis said.

After Jarvis’ presentation, the supervisors reluctantly rescinded the tax suspension they had granted a week before.

Jarvis recommended that the supervisors watch and wait as the Iowa Legislature finishes its session in the next couple of weeks to see if state lawmakers will provide some property-tax relief for flood victims.

Supervisor Linda Langston said the supervisors then will have time to revisit the property-tax matter to see if they want to adopt some sort of tax abatement procedure for taxes due later this year.

The supervisors are in no rush to make any big moves because the tax revenue of cities and schools as well as the county are tied to any decision by the supervisors to abate property taxes. State law puts these decisions in the supervisors’ hands.

Langston said one good thing about granting last week’s tax suspension, which has now been rescinded, is that several people contacted the supervisors who qualify for a suspension of property taxes because they are 65 or older or are disabled.

Unpaid property taxes send a property to the Treasurer’s Office tax sale in June. Investors pay the taxes, collect interest on the amount and then can assume ownership of the property if the owner doesn’t pay the taxes and interest within two years.

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