Creek County Assessor JaNell Enlow vows not to tax wildfire-destroyed homes
BY SUSAN HYLTON World Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 11, 2012
9/11/12 at 7:12 AM
See photo slideshows of the fire
and its damage, view aerial video from Saturday’s inferno and read previous stories.
SAPULPA - Bending the rules a bit could be a great relief to victims of the Creek County wildfires when property tax bills go out this December.
By law, wildfire victims whose homes burned to the ground would still have to pay their 2012 taxes on them since the fires took place after May 1.
But not if Assessor JaNell Enlow has anything to say about it.
Enlow said she will not tax destroyed structures this year. The tax break would not apply to any surviving structures and the land itself.
"I don't know what the repercussions are going to be from this. I'm just going to have to deal with those things as they come. Until it comes from higher authority that I absolutely can't do this and makes a public statement that I can't do it, I'm going to stand by my decision," said Enlow, who was elected in 2010.
The Oklahoma Legislature, which could address this part of the law, does not convene until Jan. 8 and special sessions are rare.
Enlow said she made the decision after touring the area and seeing the devastation.
"My county suffered the greatest amount of loss. These people voted for me in good faith to do what's best for their welfare," she said.
Enlow said she has not received any negative feedback.
A visual inspection of the wildfire area, which encompasses 58,500 acres and 376 homes, is complete and Enlow's office is still compiling the total property value that will not be taxed this year.
"It's not going to be that big of a hit," she said. "The values were low to begin with."
But Enlow expects the county will more than make up for the property tax loss once the recovery is complete and newer mobile homes replace decades-old mobile homes and brand new homes are built at values at least double what they were.
"It's not going to impact the county in a detrimental way," Enlow said. "In the long run, the benefits are going to far outweigh the negative."
Enlow said that many mobile homes in the area were valued at $8,000 and will eventually be replaced with $20,000 to $30,000 mobile homes.
Enlow said officials have not completed the ratio of homes to mobile homes but that as of now, about 30 percent of destroyed structures were stick-built homes and 70 percent were mobile homes.
More people than not owned their own land, she said.
A typical situation in the rural area is to see a parcel with four structures on it with several family members living in them.
Next year, the Assessor's Office will go back out to see what new structures begin popping up through the area.
Original Print Headline: Vow made not to tax destroyed homes
Susan Hylton 918-581-8381
JaNell Enlow: She said she made the decision after touring the area and seeing the devastation caused by the fires