Dispute could cost the county

By By Steve Gillespie / staff writer
Dec. 3, 2003
If a decision on how to do real property appraisals isn't made soon, Lauderdale County could pay the consequences through the withholding of county funds and homestead exemption reimbursements.
According to Lauderdale County Tax Assessor Jimmy Slay, incomplete or improper real property tax rolls could lead to those kinds of penalties from the Mississippi State Tax Commission.
Slay wants to contract real property appraisals, as is done with the county's personal property tax appraisals. But county supervisors rejected Slay's recommendation to contract with Sanders and Associates Appraisal Services.
Slay, District 2 Supervisor Jimmie Smith, District 3 Supervisor Craig Hitt and County Administrator Rex Hiatt met Monday over how the county should do its real property appraisals.
According to Slay and Hitt, a meeting with a representative of the Mississippi State Tax Commission is being planned, tentatively for Monday. Both Slay and Hitt characterized their meeting as a good, open discussion.
Hitt said the Tax Commission representative will meet with members of the Lauderdale County Board of Supervisor's committee that is working with Slay.
Slay, though, said he would rather the meeting be with the entire board of supervisors so that all members could get the information first-hand.
Hitt said the board is solid in support of the need for certified real property appraisers in the county tax assessor's office.
Two appraisers left the office after the August primary when Slay won re-election. One resigned and the other was fired by Slay when he decided to contract the work. Slay cannot enter into a contract without approval from the board of supervisors.
Slay said he and Theresa Bell, who works in his office, are both certified appraisers through the state Tax Commission who can assist anyone with questions about their real or personal property appraisals.
Contracting the work would cost $73,500 a tax year, he said, which would save the county at least $20,000 annually compared to the salaries of the two appraisers who no longer work in the office.
In the meantime, Slay said his office is behind in its work because of the delay. "This work should have started in October," Slay said.