TUPELO • Despite the novel coronavirus having a detrimental effect on the national economy, property values in Lee County are projected to increase this year, according to the latest tax rolls submitted to the Lee County Board of Supervisors. If the projections stay true to the final numbers that will eventually be approved by the board, the county will again see a continued trend of increased property values.
The tax rolls show a projected overall increase in real property and personal property values. Real property represents land and homes, and personal property represents items like inventory and machine equipment upgrades in businesses.
As submitted by Lee County Tax Assessor Mark “Winky” Weathers, real property is calculated at $684,665,650, which is about a $43 million increase from last year’s real property value. Personal property is valued at $229,834,360, which is about a $4.6 million increase from last year.
Most cities in the county saw an increase in real property, but a slight decrease in personal property. Baldwyn, Nettleton, Plantersville, Saltillo, Shannon and Sherman saw an increase in real property, but a decrease in personal property. Guntown, Tupelo and Verona saw an increase in both real and personal property. There was no city in the county that experienced a decrease in real property.
Now that the tax roll has been submitted to the board, there will be a public hearing on the tax rolls on August 3 where citizens can voice concerns or object to the assessed values on their property. After the board rules on all of the complaints at the hearing, the board will vote to accept the tax roll.
The tax roll will be how elected officials project tax revenue. So, the tax roll will then be one of the tools the county and cities located in the county use to start calculating their respective budgets for the upcoming fiscal year.
For the county, a majority of the revenue collected comes from ad valorem taxes, or taxes based on the assessed value of an item, such as property and estate taxes.
Bill Benson, the Lee County administrator, told the Daily Journal that, overall, he was pleased with the tax rolls and does not think the negative economic impact from the virus will influence tax revenues or next year’s fiscal budget.
“I would not anticipate a major impact (from the virus), but it will cause the board to likely be more conservative with next year’s budget,” Benson said.
Municipalities in the county are also in the process of crafting their budget for fiscal year 2021. Although cities do rely on property taxes, another portion of their revenue also stems from sales taxes and fees charged for fines and permits. Since sales tax is directly connected with the overall spending habits of consumers, the economic blow from the virus would likely impact cities more than counties.
Tupelo, the largest city in Lee County and its county seat, so far has trimmed the general budget for its current fiscal year by around $2.5 million.
Kim Hanna, the chief financial officer for Tupelo, told the Journal that some of the city’s programs, such as the Major Thoroughfare Program, the fire and police and retirement fund, the library fund and other funds rely on the property assessment. Even though preliminary assessment numbers are a good sign for the city, Hanna said the city will not start conducting work sessions among elected officials until the final numbers are adopted by the county officials.
“Anytime we see it bump up in preliminary numbers, it’s something good to see, but until that tax roll is adopted by the supervisors, we don’t get the final numbers,” Hanna said.
Hanna and other administrative officials are still ironing out details on a budget proposal to submit to the City Council and conduct public hearings on the budget, but the 4.5% growth in property values is a positive indicator of the county’s economic outlook.
At a recent work session, Mayor Jason Shelton told members of the Council that, with the exception of cuts to the current year’s budget, next year’s budget will “essentially be identical” to the current budget.
Hannah said that it’s the administration’s intent to present a balanced budget, but it’s also the administration’s intent to receive a lot of input from the Council.
If no one objects to the tax rolls at the August 3 meeting, the board is expected to vote to approve the tax rolls, which will trigger the timeline for final numbers to be presented to the municipalities.