County property values increase

Published 7:00 am Saturday, July 16, 2016

By Julia Arenstam
Picayune Item

Pearl River County Tax Assessor Gary Beech said the county has finished assessing property values and mailed out notices to residents Tuesday.
The tax assessor’s office mailed out 14,000 notices to Pearl River County property owners who will see an increase of at least $3,000 in their property value, said Beech.
The notice states a new appraisal manual has been implemented and gives property owners a summary of their previous true value and their total true value.
The new assessments will go into effect this year, said Beech, and property owners should expect to see that reflected on their tax bills in December.
The new assessment could result in about a nine percent total increase in revenue to the county general fund if the county millage rate is not lowered, said Beech.
County Administrator Adrain Lumpkin said the county accrued roughly $10.5 million in revenue from property taxes last year.
The new appraisal manual increased the value of homes between 10 to 15 percent, according to previous coverage.
The increase is due to an increased value of building materials, said Beech.
Updating property value assessments was performed to more accurately reflect property values, said Beech. The last assessment was conducted in 2011.
“If it’s not right, you can object and we can fix it,” said Beech.
Residents can view their assessed property value at the county courthouse in the Board of Supervisors meeting room. Objections must be submitted to the Board of Supervisors office by August 1, said Beech.
“If your house went up by 12 percent, it doesn’t mean taxes will go up by 12 percent,” said Beech.
According to previous coverage, state law restricts how much taxes can be increased; 10 percent being the maximum.
The Pearl River County Board of Supervisors has the authority reduce the county millage rates to reduce tax increases, however cities and school districts have authority over their own millage rates.
“I’m going to be fighting hard on the county side to lower the millage rate back down to where we were before the increase,” said Board President Sandy Kane Smith.
Board Vice President Hudson Holliday, whose own property value increased by at least $100,000, said he would support lowering the millage rate, if possible.
“I’m not for a tax increase, but we are going to look at it and see how the revenue stream is flowing,” said Holliday. “We need to use the taxes that we get to try to make every dollar count.”
Supervisor Malcolm Perry said he would vote to lower the county millage rate to compensate for the increased property values.
Supervisor Donald Hart is uncertain on his plan for the millage rates. He said he would hope the county would exhaust every measure to be sure that any increase in revenue from property taxes would be put to good use.
Hart said there would be some tough decisions in the upcoming fiscal year, especially regarding a new four-year road plan developed by Les Dungan, the county engineer.
Supervisor Farron Moeller did not return requests for comment by press time Friday.
The Picayune City Council will also be debating on whether or not to lower the city millage rate.
“The council and I have just started discussions on how we can reduce millage so the citizens will not see an increase, or a hidden tax increase, because of the increase in the assessment on their homes,” said Picayune Mayor Ed Pinero.
Pinero stressed that city leaders do not want an increase in city property taxes because he believes it will inhibit economic growth and purchases of private and commercial property.
Picayune City Councilman Wayne Gouguet said he would vote to reduce the city millage rate to maintain the $2.5 million per year in revenue the city collects in property taxes.
Councilwoman Lynn Bumpers said she would also vote to keep property taxes the same because city residents wouldn’t be able to afford an increase.
Beech did property owners a favor by waiting until this year to do the assessment, said Councilwoman Tammy Valente.
She said she is dedicated to lowering the millage rate and allowing city revenue to grow from sales and tourism taxes.
The Board is scheduled to enter into budget hearings with department heads in August and September, said Holliday.
Hart and Moeller will be absent from the next Board meeting on July 20 to attend a National Association of Counties conference in California.
The conference will discuss jobs and economic development, as well as changing legislation and state budget cuts, said Hart.

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About Julia Arenstam

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