New Lee County tax rolls just one piece of '11 budget

By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Lee County supervisors and municipal leaders have new property valuation numbers to guide them through 2011 taxes.
“These numbers are going to be part of the budgeting process,” said Joe McKinney, vice president of the Lee County Board of Supervisors. “But I feel like this coming year will be an improvement over last year.”
McKinney said higher costs to county government forced the board to skimp, where it could, and not give employee pay raises.
Tuesday, Tax Assessor Mark Weathers presented the new tax rolls and summaries of whether property values have increased or not across the county, in its nine municipalities and four school districts.
Overall, real and personal property values increased countywide by $1.76 million with a $10.81 million increase in real property valuation and a $9.11 million decrease in personal property valuations.
Real property is what’s sitting on the land and under it. Personal property is factory inventory, equipment and fixtures. The value of vehicles isn’t counted in either.
“Lee County’s growth has come from new construction – new homes and businesses,” Weathers said.
Decreased personal property values reflect a phased-in loss of factory inventory taxes on goods to be sold out-of-state.
The valuation report gives each city and the supervisors the numbers to use as they weigh a collection of data to know if they need to raise taxes, Weathers explained.
McKinney said his optimism “comes from the knowledge that more and better-paying jobs are on the horizon,” with the countdown under way for the opening of the huge Toyota manufacturing plant just to the west at Blue Springs and for numerous new plant suppliers throughout the region.
The five-member Board of Supervisors will analyze the initial tax-roll numbers, seek objections from property owners and ultimately adjust their figures to make decisions for the 2011 budget year, which begins Oct. 1.
Mayors throughout the county say they’re concerned about the impact of the 2008 recession and the loss of property tax revenues as their landowners age. Homesteads are exempt from taxes on the first $75,000 valuation if the owner is 65 or older.
Nettleton Mayor R.V. Adams says his aging population means his tax revenues will decrease.
“We will have serious issues to deal with as far as the new budget is concerned,” he said Tuesday.
Saltillo Mayor Bill Williams says he expects “very conservative” budgeting in his town with a sharp loss of sales taxes, despite real property growth.
“We’ve scarcely met our revenue projections in sales taxes since the economy ran off the railroad tracks,” he said.
All of them said they’ll have to make tax decisions by mid-August to meet the statutory Sept. 15 deadline for next year’s budgets.
Contact Patsy R. Brumfield at (662) 678-1596 or patsy.brumfield@djournal.com.