Financial aftermath from tornado keeps mounting
DIAMOND – The damage left by the tornado that struck Coal City and Diamond in November could take a toll on those communities for years to come.
The EF2 tornado that tore through Nov.17 damaged more than 200 buildings, and the financial costs of recovery continue to mount.
Diamond Mayor Terry Kernc said the village already has taken a $100,000 hit for cleanup, and the federal government has denied funds to Illinois to help with cleanup costs.
The village also will see a loss on water and sewer income from the homes that no longer have those services hooked up. And Grundy County Supervisor of Assessment Dave Henderson said Diamond is facing a reduction in equalized assessed value of $600,000.
“We haven’t had time to figure out in dollars and cents how much revenue we will lose,” Kernc said. “It’s a multiple part impact on the village – cleanup, loss of revenue and loss of real estate value.”
Several taxing bodies will feel the impact of the loss in assessed value, including the village, schools, library and the fire protection district.
Coal City schools Superintendent Kent Bugg said the reduction in assessed value will cost the school district about $17,000 in 2014.
“It will impact us further next year, but we don’t know what that will be,” Bugg said. “It could be significant.”
Officials from the village and school district said their respective governments have money in reserves that can be tapped.
Bugg said he doesn’t think the school board would want to raise taxes to cover the loss. Kernc said the village doesn’t have the luxury to run in the red, and officials will do the best they can to provide services.
“We do keep $1 million in reserves at all times,” Kernc said. “We hate to go into it, but it is there for emergencies.”
Once Gov. Pat Quinn issued a state disaster declaration, the county assessor’s office started re-evaluating the properties in the affected areas.
“What is supposed to happen is a state form is supposed to be filed so we can start reevaluation,” Henderson said. “Only six or seven people filed the form, but we’ve already adjusted property for 90 to 95 people.
“Right is right, and they have so many other things going on, we wanted to do the right thing.”
The big impact from the loss of assessed value will be seen in taxes paid in 2015.
Henderson said his office can’t project what the loss to the taxing bodies will be at this time because he doesn’t know when people will be moving back into their homes.
“A lot of people contacted contractors and won’t be allowed back in until they are finished,” Henderson said. “Ideally, if it is a three-month job, they would get started on Dec. 1 and be done by March 1. But that is not going to happen with the weather we have experienced, so they may not start until May and the residents won’t be able to move back in until August.”
The assessor’s office will be working closely with the village and will use the occupancy permits as a gauge to when the homes are habitable again. So far, only one occupancy permit has been filed.
The assessor’s office sent notices to the homeowners of the property they adjusted. While in the field, employees took photographs of each house affected and attempted to speak to the homeowners.
“Field workers went to the homes, and if there was no one home to talk to they were basing their decisions on observations,” Henderson said. “If someone didn’t receive a letter and feel they are due to be readjusted, they can fill out the form and we will look at it further.”
Henderson said there may be some residents who feel they should have been adjusted because they lost a fence or an above ground pool, but they need to remember the assessed value is based on the home structure.
A downloadable form that tornado victims need to fill out for assessment purposes is available on www.grundyco.org under the assessor department, or can be picked up at the assessor’s office, 111 E. Washington St., Morris.