Thousands of Linn County residents received property tax bills last month and were shocked to learn they were being asked to pay taxes on land they weren’t able to use because of last year’s flood. This week, the Linn County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to forgive property taxes for however long the land wasn’t used. Supervisor Brent Oleson (OHL-son) calls it a moral decision.
"If you, by an act of God…are deprived of the quiet enjoyment and use of your property, then it’s immoral to tax you for it," Oleson said. The decision means the county and some cities and schools will lose millions of dollars in revenue. However, Oleson says the board will seek retroactive relief from the state legislature when it meets in January.
"It could have a ripple effect though our entire social services that we provide citizens," Oleson said. "So, we need to try to spread that cost to the rest of the state and federal government to the extent that they can help." Some taxes will not be abated. Exceptions include property owners who have been reimbursed for that cost or for those delinquent on their taxes.
The tax forgiveness is different in Palo, which was largely destroyed by the flood. The supervisors decided to gradually forgive the taxes there over five years. They say doing it all at once would have eliminated that city’s government.