Tax assessor won’t seek re-election; second countywide spot wide open

Published 12:06 pm Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Richard Holland, Warren County’s tax assessor for 16 years, will not run again, he said Tuesday, leaving open a second countywide elective office.

“I will have 34 years in with city, state and county government,” said the 55-year-old Democrat. “I’ve got my time.”

His departure creates a second open seat in county government this year.

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Six candidates have entered the race for the chancery clerk job being vacated by Dot McGee, who plans to retire at year’s end after three terms.

Through Tuesday, none had filed for tax assessor.

Party primaries are Aug. 2 and the general election is Nov. 8.

Deputy Tax Assessor Jim Agent, 64, a candidate against Holland in 1999, discounted a run for the office’s top post but said Tuesday he’s open to staying on “for a while” during the next administration before his own retirement.

“A lot of technical things have to be done (in the next term),” Agent said, singling out the need for new aerial photos of the county in 2012 to help classify residential, commercial and agricultural property. State law mandates renewing aerial shots every 10 years.

Seven other office staffers, minus Holland and Agent, are expected to stay next term if they’re retained, Holland said.

The annual base salary for assessors in Mississippi is determined by total assessed valuations, dictated invariably by population. Warren County’s position pays $64,000, with state support and other supplements pushing it to about $70,000.

Before winning the office in 1995, Holland worked for 10 years as a deputy to former tax assessor Bill Anderson. He started in Hattiesburg’s tax assessor’s office in 1977, when many cities handled assessments and taxes, and before the task was contracted out to counties in most instances. He then spent three years with the Mississippi State Tax Commission’s Property Tax Division before coming to Vicksburg.

Warren County’s land values have risen $1 billion overall in the past decade, to $3.3 billion for 2009-10 compared to $2.2 billion in 2000. Growth was a steady 3 percent through the late 1990s through the recent recession’s onset in 2008. Holland has predicted fiscal 2010’s hotel- and casino-driven spike will dip again in 2011.

What’s changed the most in the assessor’s office through the years is the equipment and the march of technology.

“We did everything manually back then,” Holland said. “We used to type the land rolls on typewriters. Of course, it’s advanced to computers now.”

Another change Holland noted is added involvement from the Mississippi Department of Revenue on matching value with property sales — a challenge in Mississippi, which doesn’t require actual sale amounts be specified on transfer documents.

“We are required to pass the criteria set forth by the state,” Holland said.

Taxpayers can find structural descriptions to their homes and businesses online on the county’s website, as well as tax bill information.

Postcards detailing expected changes of $10,000 or more in a property’s true value are now mailed to taxpayers each summer, a change with roots in the 2007 elections. The “notifications” issue was raised repeatedly after the practice had stopped for several years, as Holland cited cost.

After winning re-election with 64 percent of the vote in 2007, he began mailing postcards the following summer.

“I feel like, over the years, we’ve tried to help people as much as possible and be equitable to everyone,” Holland said.