Property owners protest tax rates

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 6, 2002

[08/06/02]Nineteen property owners, most of them from Eagle Lake and Lake Chotard, let Warren County supervisors know Monday they are not happy with new appraisals of their real estate for tax purposes.

John Knight, a resident of Eagle Lake since 1973, was one of them saying the value assigned to his land and house went from $93,000 this year to more than $200,000 for the new tax year.

Supervisors set Monday as the day to hear protests of the valuations assigned by Tax Assessor Richard Holland. A complete reappraisal was done four years ago, raising valuations countywide an average of 26 percent. Since then, one-quarter of the county has been revalued yearly and this year’s calculations affected northwest Warren County.

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The assigned values are multiplied by a use factor (farmland is lower than residential, for example) and then by tax rates set by supervisors for county operations and schools and, inside Vicksburg, for municipal operations. After homestead, age or disability discounts are applied, the resulting number is the total of taxes due Jan. 1.

Of the 19 who spoke, the majority, 15, were landowners in Eagle Lake and Lake Chotard areas.

“I have a house and two lots in Chotard Lake Estates,” said Billy Stokes. He said his cabin is 832 square feet and it and the lots were appraised at $70,500.

“It’s in a flood zone, it’s on a gravel road, it has no fire protection and it’s subject to strict building regulations,” Stokes said. “I think (the appraisal) is out of reason.”

Mary Beth Grogan said she and her family moved to Eagle Lake in 1999 and the market value of the property was $109,000. The new value set by the tax assessor is $184,000.

“I’m a Realtor and I know what things on Eagle Lake sell for and what they don’t sell for,” she said.

Another large jump at Lake Chotard was reported by Judy Sanders who said said her property, which floods, went from $9,370 to $30,780.

Following their procedures, supervisors made no comment and, following the public protests, said they review the valuations and inform landowners privately of decisions. Afterward, aggrieved landowners can take their cases to court.

Other protesters included Harry Sharp, owner of the Duff Green Mansion at 1114 First East St. and Duff’s Tavern and Grille on Washington Street. He asked to claim homestead exemption for the bed and breakfast inn because it is also his home. “State law says you can have up to six rooms” to rent by the night, he said.

Sharp said Duff Green has five rental rooms and his tax bill increased from $4,953.55 to $8,463.59.

The board also heard protests from A.J. “Buddy” Dees, a local attorney representing Ameristar Casino and Hotel, and Jenny Virden, representing the Bunge Corp., in a protest of the value of machinery and equipment at the closed soybean processing plant on the E.W. Haining Industrial Center.

Also appearing before the board were Mike Davis and Elena O’Bannon who represented the local Board of Realtors. They said the board just became aware state law allows them tax-exempt status for the board’s property.