Late taxes blamed on gas bills

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 25, 2001

High gas prices have been blamed for everything from increased electricity rates to expected price hikes in retail goods. But the effects of a tight natural gas market may be more far-reaching than anticipated, even touching local ad valorem tax collections.

Ralph Tedder, city recreation department director, asked the Natchez Board of Aldermen Tuesday for an interfund loan of $20,000 to help cover January expenses.

And though much of the recreation budget shortfall had to do with inadequate golf course revenues, Tedder also pointed to ad valorem receipts, which were about $6,000 less this year than the same month in 2000.

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City Clerk Donnie Holloway said he too has recognized the drop in ad valorem revenues received by the city.

Historically, the city sees a surge in property tax collections during the months of December, January and February.

But since October, Holloway has recorded $139,418 in ad valorem tax revenues, compared to $181,686 for the same period in fiscal year 1999-2000.

As Tedder, Holloway believes high gas prices may have a hand in the low collections.

&uot;They say well, I’ll just hold off on paying my taxes until next month, because I’ve got to pay my gas bill or they’ll turn it off,&uot; Holloway said.

Having just returned from a Mississippi Municipalities League conference earlier this week, Holloway said concerns over high gas prices are widespread.

But tax collections may be off only at the city level, said Vernona Sanders, Adams County tax collector.

Sanders’ office collects both city and county ad valorem taxes, then passes the money on to the separate governments.

During the month of December, Sanders said her office collected $3,930,944 in both city and county property taxes.

In the same month in 1999, the total came to $3,794,215.

Neither total includes other ad valorem taxes, including vehicle tags, mobile homes and public utilities.

Sander said those taxes collected in December, which would be recorded on city and county dockets as January receipts, do include 12 percent and 4 percent increases passed by the city and county respectively in September.

&uot;I’d say we’re pretty much on schedule,&uot; she said. And with the number of payments being processed now, February should show another increase.

Property owners were notified of their owed taxes in January and payment is due Feb. 1.

All taxes received after then accumulate a 1-percent penalty per month until paid.