City, county property taxes may increase

Published 12:20 am Wednesday, February 11, 2009

NATCHEZ — Home and business owners in Natchez and Adams County should be preparing to spend more on property taxes.

Every four years Adams County Tax Assessor Reynolds Atkins assesses the value of every piece of property in Natchez and Adams County.

And Atkins said this year’s assessments will result in property owners paying higher taxes than they’re used to.

Email newsletter signup

“I’m very sympathetic to the taxpayers,” Atkins said. “But this is something that I have to do.”

Thanks to changes made by the Mississippi State Tax Commission, the formula that determines property value has changed, and that accounts for the higher taxes, Atkins said.

Atkins said the building index, which is regulated by the state, was recently raised and will now cause houses to be valued at, or near, their true value.

The true value is the cost of building the house, Atkins said.

In the past, Atkins said many houses commonly appraised for just 80 percent of their true value.

But now Atkins said he’s been mandated by the state tax commission to appraise houses within at least 90 percent of their true value, with 100 percent being the ultimate goal.

Atkins said with the adjustment in the building index and the new mandate, property taxes will increase.

Only land with homes or business will be impacted.

In the last assessment a homeowner with a $100,000 house living in the city would have paid $1,618 minus $300 for homestead exemptions, in the county it would have been $1,190 minus $300.

This year that’s going to change.

The homeowner in the city would pay $1,860 minus $300 for homestead exemptions.

In the county that same homeowner would now pay $1,369 minus $300 for homestead exemptions.

Atkins said in the sample properties he has examined so far, home and business owners will pay at least 15 percent more on their taxes.

“I’m worried some people won’t be able to afford it,” Atkins said.

Atkins said if he doesn’t comply with the state’s new requirements the county will pay the price.

Should Atkins choose not to follow the new guidelines for appraisals, his office would likely fail its audit, as a result of that, the state could withhold homestead exemption funding and millage payments to the county.

But Atkins said there is a way for those impacted by the new appraisal to save some money.

Atkins said if the tax dollar recipients, the city, county and school district, would lower their millage rates to compensate for the tax hike, taxpayers could be spared.

“I’m hoping like hell they’ll lower those rates,” he said.

But Atkins said since he’s only done a few dozen sample assessments, it’s not possible to know how much the millage rates would need to be dropped to balance out the loss.

Adams County Supervisor S.E. “Spanky” Felter said he wants to lower the millage to help out taxpayers.

“We have to figure this out,” Felter said. “We have to do this; we have to find cuts.’

Natchez City Clerk Donnie Holloway said the Natchez Board of Aldermen has yet to discuss a millage decrease.

And Natchez-Adams School District representatives could not be contacted for comment.