- Associated Press - Thursday, July 9, 2015

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - The 2015 tax assessment valuation, which will be used to determine how much property tax money local governments will receive, shows a 4 percent hike in Madison County, a 2 percent hike in Rankin County, and about a 1 percent hike in Hinds County.

Madison County Tax Assessor Gerald Barber presented his 28th and final tax assessment roll this week. He isn’t seeking re-election this year and will leave office at the end of this year.

The first tax assessment roll he presented in 1988 showed $179 million of assessed value in Madison County, and the current roll is $1.56 billion, Leslie LaCour, Barber’s administrative assistant, wrote in an email to The Clarion-Ledger.

The county’s overall assessed values grew from $1.501 billion in 2014 to $1.561 billion in 2015, an increase of almost $60 million.

“It’s safe to say that any county in Mississippi would covet that type of growth,” LaCour said in the email.

In Rankin County, the 2015 real assessed saw a 2 percent increase from 2014, totaling $1.55 billion.

“As long as you’re experiencing any type of growth it’s a good sign,” Rankin County Tax Assessor John Sullivan said.

In Hinds County, the total assessment, including municipalities and rural areas, is $1.87 billion, which is up 0.6 percent.

However, Jackson’s total assessed property value decreased slightly. The 2015 value is $1.212 billion, which is down 0.1 percent. Hinds County Tax Assessor Charles Stokes said a new state law that went into effect Jan. 1 exempting disabled veterans or their surviving spouses from homeowner’s taxes is primarily responsible for the decrease in tax revenue in Jackson.

Disabled veterans and surviving spouses of disabled veterans who have not remarried will get an exemption from property taxes on their homes.

The law says qualified homeowners and unremarried surviving spouses of such homeowners shall be allowed an exemption from all ad valorem taxes on the assessed value of the homestead property.

Mississippi Department of Revenue spokeswoman Kathy Waterbury has said disabled veterans or their spouses who qualify should check with their county tax assessor and make sure that they meet the application requirements so they can get full benefit of the new exemption.

“The estimate for the tax loss for the local governments is $1 million,” Waterbury said.

Stokes said Hinds County has received 120 applications, totaling more than $140,500 in tax exemptions, with a majority of the applications coming from disabled veterans in Jackson.

“This is a moving target,” Stokes said. “We could see more applications next year.”

A loss of property tax revenue will come from the University of Mississippi Medical Center taking over Courthouse Racquet & Fitness centers, Stokes said.

The six courthouse locations, including two in Jackson, are now UMMC property and since the medical center is state owned, it is exempted from property taxes. The former fitness centers became UMMC Wellness Center this year.

The former Courthouse fitness centers were located in Brandon, Byram, Flowood and north Jackson, in Madison and downtown Jackson. The downtown Jackson and Madison locations were leased property. UMMC took over those leases.

UMMC had announced it was closing the Byram location July 1, but later said it would remain open through Sept. 30 as it looks for a buyer to purchase and operate the facility.

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Information from: The Clarion-Ledger, https://www.clarionledger.com

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