Legislators still working on bill to freeze assessments for seniors
Published 7:00 am Thursday, July 28, 2016
In light of the new property value assessment notices, homeowners 65 and older and the disabled have been requesting a property assessment freeze.
“None of my neighbors understand what’s happening,” said Allen Bandera, a Pearl River County resident over the age of 65 whose neighbors are also over the retirement age.
Bandera said he and other county residents have previously been told by the county tax assessor’s office that their assessed property value would never increase.
However, there is no current legislation in Mississippi that allows for the freezing of the assessed value after a certain age, said Pearl River County Tax Assessor Gary Beech.
There is a homestead exemption policy for those older than 65, exempting them from up to $75,000 worth of their property’s value, said Beech.
According to the Louisiana tax commission office website, the neighboring state currently has a Special Assessment policy that allows property owners over the age of 65, and with a total household income below $71,491 for 2016, to freeze their assessed value. However, the policy does not cover assessment increases of more than 25 percent.
Efforts have been made in the Mississippi State Legislature to implement a similar program, but no legislation has passed to date.
According to state records, in 2015, Mississippi House Bill 216 proposed additional exemptions for those 65 years of age and older if the assessed value of their property increased due to an update in valuation of the property.
However, after passing the House the bill was sent to the Senate Finance Committee, where it died.
In 2016, HB 365, which advocated for an increase in homestead exemption for those 65 and older as well and the disabled, was passed in the House after discussions in the Revenue and Expenditure General Bills Committee, but once again failed in the Senate Finance committee.
Mississippi House Rep. Timmy Ladner, of District 93, co-authored HB 365 in 2016 and said he would continue to push for legislation that would provide a freeze of the value of certain homesteads in the state.
Rep. Mark Formby, Chairman of the Revenue and Expenditure General Bills Committee, has regularly debated this type of legislation and said he is in favor of it.
“I’ve supported it and supported it in my committee, and spoken in favor of it on the House floor,” said Formby.
Formby said he is positive it will pass in the next session.
“There are issues that gain momentum and those that lose momentum, this one feels like it is gaining momentum,” said Formby.
State Senator John Polk currently served on the Senate Finance committee, but has yet to see any of the legislation brought to the committee because it has died in the chairman’s hands, he said. HB 365 died during the last legislative session in the hands of State Senator Joey Fillingane, chairman of the finance committee.
However, Polk said, “I’m sure we’ll see it again.”
He did not say whether he would be for or against such legislation, but instead suggested legislators could look at changing the value of the credit, or homestead exemption, that is given to those who are over 65 years of age or disabled.