By Zack Plair/The Starkville Daily News
STARKILLE — Oktibbeha County officials are reporting that assessment values increased by about 1.5 percent during the 2012-13 fiscal year.
Records obtained from County Administrator Don Posey’s office reflected the total assessed value of real and personal property in Oktibbeha County rose by more than $5 million from 2011-12 to $341.9 million. That figure includes assessed values for all property in the county and its municipalities, except property belonging to Mississippi State University, according to Posey.
Posey said the increased assessed values would translate to a near $5,000 increase in how much revenue a property tax mill would generate, from $302,726 to $307,380. One mill is 1/10 of a cent and 1/1000 of a dollar.
County property owners now pay 110 mills annually to the county in property taxes.
Posey said the county would collect taxes based on the new values beginning Oct. 1.
“What this says is that we’re maintaining a constant growth, a steady growth, even in the depressing times we’ve had in the last four to five years,” Posey said. “House values are holding, and the sale of homes in Oktibbeha County has not slowed as much as it has in other places.”
Since the county only reassesses real property every four years, with the next reassessment due in 2014, Posey said the rising assessment value actually reflected such things as property development, as well as individuals and businesses adding value to personal property.
For instance, if a contractor bought a new piece of equipment or someone purchased a new vehicle that would increase the total property value for which those people could be taxed.
While Posey said he expected the higher assessment value to generate at least $300,000 more in taxes next year, he said that amount wouldn’t cover the funding increase requests county departments and other entities that receive county money would submit for the next budget cycle.
The county has cut department budgets each of the last two years, according to Posey, but he said that wasn’t likely in 2014. Still, he said the county must be judicious to keep budget increases within the rate of revenue growth.
“I don’t expect to have to cut budgets,” Posey said. “We might have to cut requests, but I don’t suspect anyone (any department or entity that receives county funds) will get less money than they did last year.”
County assessment values have grown each year since at least 1995, said Posey, but that growth has slowed in recent years. In 1998, the assessment value stood at about $167 million and grew to $330 million by 2010-11. Posey said most of the growth had been university-driven, adding that student enrollment growth and property tax-base growth went hand-in-hand.
“As more students come, more food places come, more apartment buildings and clothing places come to meet the needs of students,” he said. “When student population expands, so does the number of professors. Most of them you would consider upper-middle income, and they are building homes and increasing the demand for nice homes.”
Board of Supervisors President Orlando Trainer said future growth depended on the county continuing to improve quality of life. He said his three main focuses for doing that were education, infrastructure and health care.
He called the upcoming consolidation between Starkville and Oktibbeha County school districts, planned for 2015, a “sleeping giant” as it pertained to growth.
“If that thing works out well, it will definitely have a positive impact on property value because it will improve the education system out in the county,” Trainer said. “We also need to continue to improve our roads, which will also increase our property values.”