Monroe tax assessor has big job to tackle

Barbara Harrington
Senior Writer

Coming up with figures for ad valorem assessment is a big job.
That job is in the hands of Mitzi Presley and her staff of one part-time and four full-time employees. Presley has been tax assessor for approximately 10 years. She was elected to the position in 1996, but has worked in the tax assessor’s office for 25 years. “I’ve been blessed to have this job,” Presley said. “I appreciate the opportunity to serve the people of Monroe County.
“I have a wonderful staff. I’m thankful for them.”
Working with Presley are Paulette Tribble, Gussie Gardner, Kim Holloway and Carolyn Adams, all full-time, and Colleen Williams.
“Ultimately we’re responsible for producing the Real Property Roll, the Personal Property Roll, the Homestead Exemption Roll and for maintaining maps for the entire county,” Presley said.
Real Property includes all land and buildings (homes and businesses) in the county. It is mandated by the Legislature that the Real Property be updated every four years. Presley said there are 26,863 parcels on Monroe County’s Real Roll. Yearly maintenance is required in order to assess new buildings, make changes to existing buildings and delete razed buildings. In the mandated four-year update, the county has to develop and implement a new building index and current land pricing for small tracts and urban land. The index must conform to approved procedures set out by the state tax commission. Any county failing to develop and implement an index will be required to implement the regional index. This could be greater than a local one, which would mean the assessed value’s impact on imposed taxes would be greater. What is used to determine the index is the replacement cost of buildings.
“Once you get these costs,” she said, “the building is depreciated to come up with its value.” Building in dex normally increases because the cost of materials and construction of new properties, but depreciation, on older homes especially, takes the value rating down some.
The next update for county valuation assessment is 2008. Before the most recent one, it had been 17 years without a valuation being done. It is required now to do it on four-year cycles, which Presley said won’t be as bad for the citizens. The value of Monroe County, all rolls included, is $279,490,057 at this time.
The Personal Tax Roll deals with equipment, furniture, fixtures, inventory and other aspects of businesses other than land and buildings. The county is required to assess 25 percent of this per year.
Presley said it takes en entire year to process the upcoming rolls. “There’s so much involved in it,” she said. “It’s a huge responsibility, knowing all the different entities are looking to you for figures.”
There are 1,631 Personal Roll parcels and 9,933 Homestead Exemption claims. Applications for Homestead Exemption on all new properties, along with any changes to an existing application, are taken yearly. Changes include buying a new residence, changing marital status, changing a title to land, selling part of the land, purchasing more land, becoming 100 percent disabled or age 65 prior to January 1.
All buildings are sketched manually and also entered on a computer for recordkeeping. Around 2,500 deeds, along with wills and divorces are added annually to the computer, property record cards and maps.
Presley said the state prepares public utility rolls and sends to her office, where she breaks them down into individual parcels by taxing districts and provides these to the cities, the county and schools. This is another type of Personal Property, she said, but lists those that run intracounty or intrastate like big pipelines, phone lines or railroads.

Thirty people a day
The tax assessor’s office addresses public needs on a daily basis, including walk-ins and phone and fax requests. About 30 people a day come into the office for information and around 70 requests come by phone and fax. When it comes time for people to make application for Homestead Exemption or during tax time that number at least triples, Presley said. Mixed in with the general public are appraisers, attorneys, surveyors and loggers who need their services.
In addition to maintaining their own records, the tax assessor’s office also maintains the computer system for the tax collector’s and the circuit clerk’s offices, Presley said. “We do daily backups,” she said. Presley considers herself “old-timey,” because she backs up her records the old way, too, on paper. “In my office, if the power is off and computers are down, we can still provide someone with the information they need,” she said.
When she first started working at the tax assessor’s office, all changes (deeds, wills, divorces) were done manually to old plat books. “We had to go to Security Bank in Amory to key those changes,” she said. “They printed the land rolls from data we input. The maps were actually inked. Now we have digital maps. Now, all changes are done straight to the computer.”
After she came to work in 1981, she said they had a reappraisal in 1984, which was the first time the buildings were measured and sketched, she said. “Now all that is on computer.”
For mapping, they are required to refly aerial maps every 10 years. This is hired out. During her last audit, every map, and there are 370, was checked. “You can’t be outside their variance,” she said, “which is based on what scale the map is.” The mappers, flying at a certain altitude, have to make pictures at a steady distance, or the auditors will find them off. A check is also done to make sure every parcel on the computer is on a map.
“I’m tested to the extreme by the auditors,” Presley said. “They pull maps and sales records for the county as a whole. They go to the field and audit, to make sure I haven’t missed picking up or deleting anything, even a utility or a deck. They takepersoneal property listings and go to the businesses and audit us on every item in there.”
All this is done toward assessing figures wich are applied to various millages to determine ad valorem taxes.