County approves 2001 tax rolls

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 21, 2001

[8/21/01] One citizen won his argument over the value assigned to his property, but several bed and breakfast owners lost.

The Warren County Board of Supervisors approved the 2001 tax rolls Monday, allowing only one change out the nine objections filed.

The winner, at least partially, was Harry Sherard, who owns 17.2 acres of land on U.S. 61 North. He asked for a change in his taxes because the raw, undeveloped land was hard to use or sell but his taxes in 2000 and 2001 were more than five times what he paid in 1999. The land was valued at $22,500 per acre, but tax assessor Richard Holland asked to change the value of the land to $15,000 per acre, and the board agreed.

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The change in valuation will result in a savings of about $2,200 for Sherard. Holland said other land in that area of the same quality was valued at about $15,000, prompting the change.

The tax rolls this year show $2,345,555,439 in real and personal property, a 4.5 percent increase from last year. Setting the values and having them approved is part of the annual tax-setting process that culminates in September.

About 27,000 parcels make up Warren County, including the city, and about 12,000 of those receive reduced tax rates through homestead exemption, Tax Assessor Richard Holland said. Values are based on what property is selling for in the area.

Also appearing last week was Bill Smollen of the Stained Glass Manor Bed and Breakfast on Drummond Street. He said denial of tax-exempt status he sought for 2001 violated state law and went against Attorney General’s opinions he had received. Holland and the board upheld their decision to enforce taxes on the property despite Smollen’s arguments and testimony of three other bed and breakfast proprietors.

“My bed and breakfast is for sale,” said Andy Johnson, owner of the Pemberton Headquarters Bed and Breakfast. “I spent most of my inheritance trying to promote tourism in Vicksburg, and we need your help.”

The basis for the request is that the historic properties are owned by non-profit entities.

District 3 Supervisor Charles Selmon said he was troubled by how the county handled the decision for tour-home owners.

“I think it was wrong to not allow them to speak before a final decision was made,” Selmon said. “I didn’t support that. We need to treat residents in Warren County as our bosses.”

Selmon also said he believes if the county is able to give people tax relief, then it should do so.

“If you can give a break to someone, within the law, then we need to do that,” Selmon said.

Smollen said others have received exemptions under the statute he was following.

“My perception is that we are being punished for doing good for the community,” Smollen said. “If we improve our property to increase business, then taxes keep going up.”

Smollen said he would like the county to get another opinion and follow its advice. Holland said he would support asking for a more specific opinion.

“We can write a letter to the attorney general and try to get an opinion based on this particular situation, but it’s up to the board,” Holland said. “I have a responsibility to put on the tax roll every property that is taxable. I don’t want anything on my tax roll that shouldn’t be there.”

In other business, the county:

Awarded a bid to T.L. Wallace Construction Inc. for $273,333,10 for a road reseal and chip seal project.

Approved tax exemption for Telepac Communications in the amount of $438,694.

Approved a request from the tax collector’s office to recycle 50 boxes of surrendered license plates.

The board will meet again at 9 a.m. Sept. 4.