The Odessa Record -

By Drew Lawson
The Times 

Bill providing property tax relief for fire victims passes Senate


Last updated 3/11/2021 at 4:47pm

OLYMPIA – Senate Bill 5454, a bill aimed at providing property tax relief to Washington citizens who lost their homes in Labor Day 2020 fires, passed 49-0 through the Senate March 9 and will move to the House for potential further passage.

Originally introduced February 12 by 9th District Senator Mark Schoesler and sponsored by nine others, including 13th District Senator Judy Warnick, the bill would create a property tax exemption for three years to anyone making any physical improvements to single-family dwellings upon real property. That includes constructing an accessory dwelling unit, whether attached to or within the single-family dwelling or as a detached unit on the same real property, the bill reads.

The bill updates an existing statute that provides some property tax exemptions for homes damaged in wildfires and makes the exemption for the full value of original structures for dwellings damaged by wildfires in Washington between Sept. 1 and Sept. 19.

Schoesler’s 9th District includes Malden and Pine City, two Whitman County towns with a combined 120 homes that were eviscerated in Labor Day fires, so he wrote the bill with those communities in mind. However, Lincoln County residents know the impact the Whitney Road Fire had here, where five homes and over 127,000 acres burned…nearly 10% of the county’s full acreage.

“I think the bill is a good thing…the county won’t lose any revenue from it,” Lincoln County Commissioner Rob Coffman said. “There’s really no negative impacts. (Farmers) lost a lot through (the fires), so I think it’ll help.”

Lincoln County Fire District No. 5 chief Craig Sweet said the bill will certainly assist the homeowners of the five structures who burned, but was left with questions after reading the bill.

“The bill is too vague to make any real determination on it,” Sweet said, while noting many people have homeowner’s insurance that will already help support them in rebuilding dwellings.

“Cattle ranchers are out (of resources) quite a bit…I think the state needs to look into that further.”

The full bill can be read on the state legislative website. It moves into the house after it was passed unanimously through the Senate.

Author Bio

Drew Lawson, Editor

Drew Lawson is the editor of the Davenport Times. He is a graduate of Eastern Washington University.

Twitter: @lawsondrew5


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