TOPEKA — The EF4 mile-wide tornado that hammered portions of Douglas and Leavenworth counties in May 2019 damaged dozens of homes and shredded a large number of agriculture buildings.
Kansas law allowed county officials to authorize property tax abatements on homesteads but not on barns and other outbuildings destroyed in the storm.
A bill pending in the Kansas Senate would amend the statute to allow an abatement or credit on property taxes levied on agricultural property destroyed by earthquake, flood, tornado, fire, storm or other natural disaster.
“Many of the residents in the path of destruction of the F4 tornado would directly benefit as would any victim of future property damaging events,” said Mike Stieben, a member of the Leavenworth County Commission.
Sen. Tom Holland, a Baldwin City Democrat who serves a district that includes portions of Leavenworth and Douglas counties, said he introduce the bill at the request of county officials. He said the benefit would be retroactive to the tax year 2019 and would remain in place for three years.
Linwood resident Brian Habjan said the tornado spared his home from major damage, but three barns were destroyed and had to be rebuilt.
“Luckily, and amazingly, my house only had cosmetic damage due to the tornado turning exactly between my house and barn,” said Habjan, a supporter of the Senate bill. “Any one of the mature trees I lost could have been thrown through my house.”
He said he was required under state law to pay property taxes for one year on three buildings that he wasn’t able to use.
Kansas Farm Bureau representative John Donley said the organization endorsed Senate Bill 242 because it was reasonable to allow financial relief to people if the governor declared the event a disaster and the county commissioners granted the tax break.