Warren fighting rise in tax rates|[7/12/05]

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Although the Warren County Board of Supervisors has two months before setting the county’s budget for Fiscal Year 2006, the president of the board said the aim is to try to keep from raising the rate at which taxes are assessed.

The possibility of rising taxes in Sharkey and Issaquena counties, however, is really due to changes in the valuation of agricultural land and, in Claiborne County, an increase in local money for schools will translate into a rate increase.

Warren County Tax Assessor Richard Holland said the state change in how agricultural land is evaluated also affected Warren County, but not to the extent it affected Sharkey and Issaquena, vastly more agricultural.

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“For the past 10 years the State Tax Commission has raised the values,” he said.

This year, the commission reduced the value of agricultural land, Holland said, adding the effect on Warren County was blunted by the fact this county has a more diverse tax base that contains a large number of businesses and industries to take up the slack.

Supervisors began the process last week that will lead to a budget in September and a tax levy to fund the budget by Oct. 1. The City of Vicksburg follows the same schedule. The Vicksburg Warren School District operates on a fiscal year that starts July 1, and trustees have adopted a spending plan that shows no change in the local tax rate.

Earlier this month, supervisors accepted the personal and real property rolls from Holland. They then spent the remainder of the week in a process called equalization, which means members of the board go over the rolls to make sure the values assigned by Holland’s office aren’t out of line.

At the meeting, Holland told the board the value of the real property, which is land and any buildings on it, and personal property, which is personally owned vehicles and anything other than land and buildings owned by businesses and industries, is up 3.8 percent over the values assigned for 2004. The value used for 2004 taxes was $2,693,968,000 compared to the $2,796,125,000 for 2005.

He attributed much of the increase to expansions of existing industries, new industries moving in, new residential and commercial construction, as well as the annual re-evaluation of one-fourth of the property in the county.

Later in the process, supervisors will set aside a time for people who think the values assigned to their properties are incorrect to appear before the board to file an official protest.

David McDonald, board president and District 1 supervisor, said he and other board members were happy to see the increase, but warned that all of it is probably not taxable. The reason is that the board annually considers requests from tax exemptions from industries that are either new to the county or installed new machinery and equipment. Generally, those exemptions are for up to 10 years on county property taxes only. The industries still have to pay their share of state property taxes and taxes to support the school system.

Also, he said, there are the exemptions that are granted to people who own the homes they live in.

“We did not give county employees a raise last year, so this year our first priority will be to give them a raise,” McDonald said.

Last year’s taxes were calculated on the basis of 81.78 mills for property owners outside the city limits and 117.41 mills for property owners inside the city limits of Vicksburg with 45.9 mills of both totals set aside for schools.