By Mick Hinton
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — The Cleveland County assessor expects the number of homes destroyed by Monday’s tornado will exceed the total from the May 1999 tornado that devoured much of the city of Moore.
Assessor David Tinsley said Tuesday, “Just looking, it appears it’s going to be a little worse.”
“Part of the reason is that the 1999 tornado moved faster, while this one stayed around and chewed away,” he added.
The assessor’s office is gearing up to fan out through the tornado area and assess property damages. That could occur in two or three weeks, Tinsley said.
“We can’t even go in there now. We have to stay out of the way like everyone else.”
Meanwhile, Tinsley is working with Pictometry International Corp. hired to provide aerial pictures to the county as an aid to the assessor.
“They are going to fly when the weather breaks,” said Tinsley, noting that the company will provide these emergency service without pay.
Tinsley said he is hoping that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will provide Cleveland County with a list of damages, which will help the assessor. In 1999, FEMA provided the information.
Tinsley said he expects homes will be valued at 50 percent damage or 100 percent destroyed. Those receiving much less than 50 percent damage would be handled separately.
The county assessor’s office is the government entity that keeps track of property and improvements and uses the values as a basis for tax collections.
Tinsley expects to have eight of his employees assessing property damages. That information coupled with the aerial shots by Pictometry and hopefully a list from FEMA, accurate assessments can be made.
Residents and businesses damaged by the storm can alert the assessor’s office and provide information to aid the property adjustments.
The assessor’s office in Norman can be reached by calling 366-0230, Tinsley said.
“As long as we get information one way or another, we will determine assessed rates,” he said. In cases where homes were destroyed, the assessed rate will apply only to the land. However, if homes are rebuilt on the site, a new assessment will occur.
Thanks to a new law passed by the Legislature just this year and signed by the governor, the cutoff date for adjusted assessment totals has been extended to Oct. 1 in case of storms like tornadoes. Previously, the law had a cutoff date of May 1.
In June, Tinsley will provide the State Tax Commission with an abstract showing the assessed values of all property. Last year, the estimate figured at 12 percent of real value. That 12 percent amounted to nearly $1.7 billion in 2012.
Tinsley said he might need to send in an amended total to the state, which includes damages from this tornado.
Oklahoma County has already contacted Tinsley to offer assistance.
The assessor said he has heard from other assessors in the state, including Roger Mills, Carter, Noble and Pittsburg counties.
Some of the assessors are simply notifying Cleveland County that they are saying prayers.
Tinsley said he even received an offer from a Louisiana assessor wanting to help out.