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Adams County tax assessor candidates address election issues

Today The Natchez Democrat profiles candidates vying for the Adams County Tax Assessor’s seat being vacated by Reynolds Atkins.

Candidates Michael Pace and Larry Hughes are running as Democrats and the winner of the Aug. 6 primary will face independent candidate Douglas Atkins in the Nov. 5 general election.

The Adams County Tax Assessor’s duties are outlined below as summarized from Mississippi state statutes by the Mississippi State University Extension service.

“The tax assessor must discover, list and value all property within the county. The county tax assessor has the right, power and authority to require an inspection of a property owner’s books and accounts, papers, memoranda and records, and from this inspection make an estimate of the value of the property.”

All candidates submitted responses to the same five questions given to them by The Natchez Democrat. Candidates’ answers were limited to no more than 150 words.

Why should Adams County voters elect you to serve as the Adams County Tax Assessor?

Douglas Atkins:  As a landowner in Adams County, I understand the importance of knowing your properties’ true value and how it is determined. I grew up in Natchez and graduated from Troy University. I worked as a Home Care Specialist for Nationwide Insurance and assessed homes in the Jackson area and Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina.

I later began my career in the waste industry, which brought me back home to Natchez.

I understand the concerns that our citizens face today. My family has had a business here for over 40 years. My grandfather is Reynolds Atkins, your current Adams County Tax Assessor and has been for the last 24 years. He has done a great job in office and I plan on carrying on the tradition. I have always believed in being equitable and transparent.

Larry Hughes: Adams County voters should elect me because of my proven leadership. I’m capable, honest, and the best candidate for the office.

I will make sure everyone in the office has all of the continuous education classes to work in the office to serve the people.

I have worked with the public and the Mississippi Department of Insurance as a well-known, respected associate and manager for 22 years. I have also been able to work with people from all parts of the world in a professional manner. I will represent the Tax Assessor’s office with respect, dignity, accountability and pride.

Michael Pace: I am the ONLY experienced candidate. I have knowledge about property valuation that the other candidates do not have. I have been serving Adams County in the role of Chief Real Property Appraiser within this office for over four years. I know the office inside and out. Any person that has ever dealt with me within this office knows that I am fair, respectful, knowledgeable and will go above and beyond to help in any way I can. Adams County does not have to train me to do this important job; I’m ready to start working from day one of the term. I love doing this job. I love helping the people that come in the office. I am asking Adams County voters to hire me at the ballot box to continue working diligently for Adams County.

 

What is the biggest issue facing the Adams County voters in the Adams County Tax Assessor’s office?

Douglas Atkins: The biggest issue The Adams County Tax Assessor’s office is facing today is providing the Adams County taxpayers with the tools to understand how their property was assessed, how they can appeal it and what assistance programs are available. Technology today makes the assessing process more accurate, efficient and allows us to share information online. We should be able to have this information available online. I will work with the new tax collector to create a way to pay online.

Larry Hughes: The biggest issue facing the Adams County Tax Assessor’s office is making sure that all properties are assessed fairly. I will obey all rules and regulations by the Mississippi Department of Revenue. I will also list the value of all property subject to ad valorem taxation on an assessment roll each year. The “ad valorem” basis for taxation means that all property should be taxed according to value.

Michael Pace: The biggest issue facing this office is the possibility that this office may fall into the hands of inexperience. This is a highly important office that applies a specific skill set that affects all Adams County taxpayers. Adams County does not have the luxury of letting its next Tax Assessor learn on the job at your expense. If you have an assessment issue, you need to know that the elected official within the office has the experience and knowledge to answer your questions or concerns.

What are two main objectives you would want to accomplish if elected as the Adams County Tax Assessor?

Douglas Atkins: The two main objectives that I would like to accomplish if I were elected would first be updating the Tax Assessor’s website with programs that the taxpayer can use and second updating the programs used to make valuation and assessment more accurate and efficient. Also, I would add more ways to request property information such as receiving emails and online requests. I want to be as transparent as possible and these programs are the first step.

Larry Hughes: If you disagree with the assessor’s value, you can come to my office and discuss the matter. If you still disagree with the value, you can go to the Adams County Board of Supervisors. If you still disagree, you can go to the Mississippi Department of Revenue.

Taxpayers should know that there will be an open policy. You can feel free to come in the office and sit down and get a clear understanding of how your property value is assessed.

Michael Pace: The primary objective is to continue to set property values with Adams County in the most beneficial manner to taxpayers. Knowing the regulations of the Department of Revenue intimately allows me to keep taxpayers’ assessments at the lowest allowable level. Property taxes account for the lion’s share of the operating budget of the city, county, and school system, and I consider it paramount to serve the taxpayers’ best interests.

I would also like to see the office move toward digital records. If I am elected, I would be able to incur the expense of the investment necessary to accomplish this goal without raising the budget. I would be eliminating my current position within the office by becoming the Tax Assessor, purchase the necessary equipment and software and still lower the current budget by continuing to do the work myself.

 

What experience do you have that uniquely qualifies you to be the Adams County Tax Assessor?

Douglas Atkins: The experience that I have that uniquely qualifies me to be the Adams County Tax Assessor is that I am a landowner. I have assessing experience, and I am involved in the community and hear what the taxpayers are looking for. I have been in the customer service industry my entire life.

When working as a public figure you must be able to go above and beyond. In the past 10 years I have worked closely with the city and county officials in the Miss Lou and other surrounding areas and understand the needs of a transparent and efficient government.

Larry Hughes: I have been a public servant for 24 years. I have also been able to work with a staff of employees and treat people with respect. I’m very comfortable working with people one-on-one. I have the skills to work as a team player. I have property and casualty license in the insurance business for the states of Mississippi and Louisiana.

Michael Pace: I am the ONLY experienced candidate. I am the ONLY knowledgeable candidate when it comes to running this office. I have the highest designation available for this office (MAE — Mississippi Assessment Evaluator — given by the Department of Revenue). The other candidates cannot get this designation any sooner than three years. I am also a State Certified Residential Real Estate Appraiser, and a member of the International Association of Assessing Officers. Real estate valuation is my career, even before I began working for the Tax Assessor’s office. If another candidate were to get elected to this office, he would either have to keep me or contract the position to an assessment firm. I assure you that contracting my current position would increase the budget. I can continue to perform the duties of this office by being elected thereby reducing cost to the taxpayers.

Do you agree with the way properties are currently being assessed for taxes? If not, what changes would you implement and why?

Douglas Atkins: The Tax Assessors office is run well today. People don’t want to see changes in this position. They want to see someone that is honest and fair. My grandfather has always been that, and he instilled those values in me. I want to continue that and serve our community. I love Natchez. That’s why I brought my family back here. Our community and landowners deserve someone that will continue with integrity and someone they can trust. That’s why I chose to run.

Larry Hughes: There is only one way to assess the property. The Tax Assessor is governed by the laws of the Mississippi Department of Revenue. Those laws must be adhered to. If the office is run in any other way, then I wouldn’t be satisfied. The Mississippi State Department of Revenue for Mississippi provides the basic framework for taxation.

Michael Pace: I do agree with the way properties are currently being assessed for taxes, because it is being done according to the guidelines of the Mississippi Code and audited yearly by the Mississippi Department of Revenue. I realize that taxpayers are concerned with the dollar amount of their taxes, but I want to remind voters that this office does not set the tax rate. Most of the time, when a taxpayer sees an increase in their tax amount, the assessment made by this office has not changed. I take great pride in making sure Adams County is in compliance with the statutes of Mississippi legislation, and I continually strive to assess property in the most beneficial manner to the taxpayer. I am a taxpayer serving taxpayers and treat everyone that comes through our door the way I would like to be treated.

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