Halloween flood victims to receive break in property tax

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by ASHLEY GOUDEAU / KVUE News and Photojournalist MICHAEL MOORE

Bio | Email | Follow: @AshleyG_KVUE

kvue.com

Posted on January 3, 2014 at 7:10 PM

Updated Friday, Jan 3 at 7:20 PM

AUSTIN -- The neighborhoods around Onion Creek still have a long recovery ahead of them. On Halloween morning, flood waters formed a raging river, killing six people and destroying hundreds of homes.

Two months later, parts of Pleasant Valley Road resemble a ghost town. Some homes are under construction, while nothing has been done to others.

"People that don't have insurance and people that have insurance, I mean, we all lost something and we all need," said homeowner Maria Vara. 

Some help is coming.

"Unfortunately, we know all too well that mother nature occasionally wreaks havoc on Travis County," said Travis County tax assessor and collector Bruce Elfant. "And when disasters do strike, we want to make sure that property owners know to take advantage of every legal opportunity to help them get back on their feet."

One of those opportunities is a break in property tax. Because Gov. Rick Perry issued a disaster declaration, taxing districts can request a reappraisal of the affected properties. Travis County did.

"We will look at the properties as of Nov. 1 to see what their status was and reappraise them for the months of November and December at a reduced rate," said Travis County chief tax appraiser Marya Crigler. 

Affected homeowners who haven't paid their taxes yet can set up a payment plan to pay the new rate with no penalties or interest. Those who already paid will be issued a refund check by  mid-February.

"For example, a property that was completely washed away may see about $200 of property tax relief from Travis County. Property that only had maybe some minor dry wall damage may only see $50 [or] $60," said Crigler.

"Anything's a big help for us, because all of us took a big hickey here," said homeowner Douglas White. "Even though it didn't get real deep here, it still did a lot of damage."

That's partly why the tax break will also continue into 2014.

The status the homes were in as of Jan. 1, 2014 will determine the appraisal value for the new year. Whether a home is repaired, in the process of being repaired or the same as the day of the flood.

But that's not sitting well with all of the homeowners.

"I don't think it's fair that the ones that haven't done anything, they're going to get more, more money then the ones who stayed and fixed it," said Vara.

Other homeowners worry that the decrease in values will be permanent and could negatively affect resale values.

Homeowners who believe their homes were not properly appraised can send in flood and damage pictures or receipts from their insurance company and contractors to possibly get more of a break. 

More breaks and refunds could be issued if other tax entities, including the City of Austin and the Austin Independent School District, also agree to tax based on the new appraisals. There are a total of eight major taxing entities. Travis County is the only one to request a reappraisal so far.

Go here for more information and to find out if your home is on the list.

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