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New mill values could shape priorities


Lowndes County Tax Assessor Greg Andrews

Lowndes County Tax Assessor Greg Andrews



Nathan Gregory



It will be September before millage rates for the 2014-15 fiscal year are set in Lowndes County and Columbus, but preliminary tax roll values indicate what the value of each mill will be worth.  


A general county mill right now is worth $503,000 and is expected to go up to $504,000 effective Oct. 1. Meanwhile, a city mill is expected to decrease from $172,000 to $167,000. Losing $5,000 per mill means the city will have to find other revenue streams to make up for the $200,650 shortfall.  


Mills are a calculation of property taxes. One mill is worth one thousandth of a dollar. Determining how much money you'll pay in one year in property taxes is calculated by multiplying the value of your property by 10 percent and multiplying that result by .001. That amount, which equals the tax for one mill, is then multiplied by the millage rate, which is currently 40.13. A person who owns a $100,000 home in Columbus right now pays $401.30 a year in property taxes to the city of Columbus.  


That does not include the city school district's 65.87 rate, and since city residents live in Lowndes County, they also pay county millage. The millage rate in the county is 38.01 Added up, that's a total rate of 144.01 and a total payment of $1,440 this year in property taxes for a property valued at $100,000. 


Lowndes County Tax Assessor Greg Andrews determines how much the value of a mill is in the city by adding up the worth of all real, personal and motor vehicle property within the city limits and multiplying that by one thousandth of a dollar. The same principle is applied to property outside the city. The value of a mill for a city resident is not as much of a consequence to the taxpayer as how much the city and school board request for their budgets, he said. 


"If the budget request remains constant and the value of a mill drops, then people would pay more taxes," he said. "If the budget request reduces and the value of a mill reduces, they see no increase." 


The primary reason for the drop in the value of a city mill was the loss of revenue that came from taxes paid by Omnova Solutions and Sanderson Plumbing. Omnova shut its doors in 2012 and Sanderson Plumbing has declared bankruptcy. 


Columbus Chief Operations Officer David Armstrong said the loss in the value of a mill would not necessarily mean a tax increase other than a 1.1 mill, $5 million general obligation bond that was passed last month for road improvements and will be in effect in October. 


"We know we've got that much less in revenue and we've got to make up for that, but there are other ways to do it without raising millage," Armstrong said. 




County looking long term 


While the value of a general county mill sees almost no change next year, industries currently paying fees in lieu of taxes will be paying full ad valorem taxes in the coming years, which will then increase county mill values.  


As for the upcoming fiscal year, two major county-wide priorities will likely be in play: A renovation and expansion of the E-911 building and another round of road improvements. County road manager Ronnie Burns told county supervisors Monday that he intends to request more money from the county budget next year for road paving and repairs as well as raises for his employees.  


Lowndes County Administrator Ralph Billingsley said supervisors funded Buns department with $2 million this fiscal year, which was an increase over $1.5 million the previous year.  


"Our roads are deteriorating bad," Burns said. "It's getting where we're patching on top of patch out there. We're not putting enough money in to take care of our road problems. We need to do something better than what we're doing on them." 


Burns will have support from at least two supervisors on his request. Leroy Brooks and Jeff Smith both said Burns' request for more resources would get their votes. 


"The funding process we've used to try to keep these roads up year in and year out is just not working," Smith said. "We talk about economic development, and we're taking the necessary steps to make sure we have economic development. We talk about improving education and making sure the funding is available to train and educate our young people. The one area we've failed to address is the roads. It's quickly becoming a disaster not just for us, but for the road department." 


Likely beginning in the 2015-16 fiscal year, the county will have to set aside funding each year for the next 15 years to build a new workforce training facility for East Mississippi Community College. The board committed $10 million toward the $38-million project Monday. 


Supervisors have also discussed providing funds to the Columbus-Lowndes County Recreation Authority to build a new community center in Caledonia that would double as a voting precinct. 


District 1 Supervisor Harry Sanders said he strongly supported the project. 


"It's the second largest polling place in the county and they don't have any parking or have any way to expand that, so they want to do a community center and use it as a polling place and let Parks and Rec run it," Sanders said. 


John Holliman, supervisor for District 3, said he's had the same requests for a new community facility on Sand Road. Smith is also asking for a new building near Shady Lane in District 4. 



Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.



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