After being erroneously charged taxes they did not owe, Pacific flood victims will receive a refund.
The county commission approved the refunds on Tuesday for those whose homes were damaged in a 2008 flood.
“We found that taxpayers had paid 2009 taxes after they (had) their property condemned,” County Collector of Revenue Linda Emmons said. “I felt like those people should not have paid on properties that were condemned and considered unlivable.”
Presiding County Commissioner John Griesheimer agreed that the flood victims should have been refunded.
Griesheimer noted that the flood victims have been through a lot of tough times and that he is glad that the refunds can help them get “back on their feet.”
Some of the property owners paid 2010 and 2011 taxes, and those taxes will be refunded, too, Emmons said.
“I think it’s treating the taxpayers fairly, and I think they are going to be happy to get some of their money back,” Emmons said.
In total there will be $25,959 in refunds split between 19 property owners.
They should have been exempt from property taxes after the flood since their properties were deemed condemned, Emmons said.
The people getting the refunds took advantage of a government buyout program after the flood. The purpose of the program was to buy out homes so the structures could be torn down to prevent them from flooding again.
Some of the people who took a buyout had property taxes charged to them when their house sales were closed with Security Title, Emmons said.
Other property owners paid taxes directly to the county when they had already paid the taxes through the closing process. This resulted in them paying property taxes twice, Emmons said.
She said her office should have never billed out those taxes, but she was not notified of which properties were damaged in the flood. Therefore, normal tax bills were sent out, she said.
The county assessor also should have been given a list of the damaged properties so they could have been made tax exempt, Emmons added.
Now that the county commission has approved the refunds, Emmons said the checks will be sent out right away.
“We are working on issuing the checks right now,” she said.
The fact that refunds have to be sent out, means that the taxing entities that rely on that revenue will have to take the hit.
“I’m sure it will hurt to a certain extent,” Emmons said.
The largest impact will be on the Meramec Valley R-III School District, but some others will include the Meramec Ambulance District, Pacific Fire Protection District and the Scenic Regional Library system.
“We take it out of the collected money from April,” Emmons said.
Determining how much money should be refunded has required a lot of research from her office, she said, adding that deeds and closing statements had to be reviewed.
“It’s been a real mess to straighten out,” Emmons said, adding that she just wanted the matter resolved honestly and fairly.