Property appraisers in several counties hit by Charley are asking the governor to delay tax notices that are due to be mailed out to residents. The governor is still considering their request, but even if there is a delay in the notices, residents may still have to pay tax on a house that is no longer standing.
Thousands of hurricane victims are about to get a tax bill for a house or business that is damaged or no longer standing. The notices are due to be mailed by this weekend.
Gov. Jeb Bush is being asked order a delay in the mailing.
"If you can’t get the access to the notice, we are going to have to deal with that. I became aware of that last night."
Adding insult to injury, a bigger issue is that many victims of Charley will be asked to pay property tax on structures that no longer exist.
Dave Bruns of the Florida Department of Revenue says under state law, the tax is based on what was standing this past January and it doesn’t matter what has happened since.
“There is no statute that allows for property tax forgiveness in cases where property was destroyed by Hurricane Charley," says Bruns.
Because there is no mechanism in state law to give people who suffered damage a tax break, the appraisers also want the governor to call lawmakers back to Tallahassee to change the law.
Right now the governor says there are bigger issues at hand.
"I’m listening to the calls for special sessions in all different ways. Our first priority right now is to get electricity back up, and give folks some sense of normalcy"
Three times in the last 20 years the state legislature has granted a tax relief because of a disaster after the fact, but it has never cancelled taxes that were due.
That means Charley’s victims will likely have to pay and hope for relief later.
A longer term tax problem is also facing schools and local governments. With billions in destruction, next years tax rolls will be lower in areas with major damage.