Property damage vs. crop damage, commissioners discuss destroyed real property

LEXINGTON — Property in Dawson County damaged or destroyed due to natural disasters was the subject of a special meeting held by the Dawson County Commissioners on Thursday, July 25.

The Nebraska Legislature passed LB 512 which allowed property owners to file before July 15 a report of destroyed property with their county.

The text of the bill read, in part, “real property that suffers significant property damage as the result of a calamity.” Calamities included fire, earthquake, flood, tornadoes.

Significant damage was determined to be, “damage to an improvement exceeding 20 percent of the improvements assessed value,” or, “damage to land exceeding 20 percent of a parcel’s land value in the current tax year.”

There were several reports from land owners which had been filed, some from the May 17 tornadoes and others from the July flooding. There was discussion amongst the commissioners, Deputy County Attorney Jared Dean and Assessor John Moore about what “real property,” included.

Dean suggested the commissioners look at these reports on a case by case basis and said there should be a distinction between land damage and crop damage.

The commissioners voiced their thoughts on the matter, Dennis Rickertsen said this damage to real property should include permanent damage to real estate, damage to crops should not count in this.

Dean Kugler said there should be a correlation between the damage the county sees to a property and the damage the land owner sees.

Butch Hagan said if there is no erosion from the water, then it is just a wet year.

Chairman Bill Stewart also said crop damage shouldn’t qualify under this law, which only concerns damage to the property itself. Attorney Jared Dean agreed with the commissioner’s assessment.

The decision was made to accept the reports which contained damage to the property itself and to deny reports on parcels deemed to have only crop damage.

Two rural properties, including three parcels, damage requests were approved. There 15 parcels which only suffered crop damage. These requests were denied.

LB 512 does allow for protests of the assessed value for a destroyed property to be filed 30 days after the mailing notice.

Permissive exemptions were the last bit of business the commissioners looked at. According to a State of Nebraska tax information guide, these type of tax exemptions are open to properties which must be owned by and exclusively used for agricultural and horticultural societies or the property must:

-          Be owned by an educational, religious, charitable or cemetery organization, or any organization for the exclusive benefit of any such organization.

-          Be used exclusively for educational, religious, charitable or cemetery purposes

-          Not be used for financial gain or profit to either the owner or the user

-          Not be used for the sale of alcoholic beverages for more than 20 hours a week

-          Not be owned by an organization that discriminates in membership or employment based on race, color or national origin.

Organizations wanting permissive exemption must file Form 421 with the county assessor before Dec. 31 each year. Organizations which miss the Dec. 31 deadline face a penalty.

According to the information guide, “the county assessor must apply a penalty of 10 percent of the tax that would have been due had the property been fully taxed, or $100, whichever is less, for each calendar month or fraction thereof for which the application missed the Dec. 31 deadline. This penalty may not be waived or reduced by the county board. Failure to file a completed Form 451 by June 30 is a waiver of the exemption for that assessment year.”

Attorney Dean said the State of Nebraska has given a “hard order,” to deny the exemptions which missed the deadline. These properties are then added back to the tax roll.

A motion was made stating, “All the exemptions requested due to late filings are denied and returned to the tax roll for the year 2019.”

This includes parcels owned by the First United Methodist Church, Lexington, Overton Rodeo Club, Gothenburg Public Schools, Gothenburg Public Schools Foundation, Crestview Senior Housing, Hedglin-Welliver Post #225, Asambleas De Dios Filadelifa, Dawson County Agricultural Society, Dawson County Historical Museum, Cozad Child Care, Overton Rodeo club, Church of Christ, Lexington, Meridian Chapter #74 Order of Eastern Star, Buffalo Grove Presbyterian Church, American Lutheran Church, Gothenburg,  Gothenburg baseball, First Presbyterian Church, Cozad.

 The commissioners voted for its approval.

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