Washington County taxes short $10 million
Released: September, 2010
GREENVILLE - Collection of county taxes is down — way down and county officials would like to know why.
Mark Seard, Washington County Tax Assessor delivered the news to the Washington County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.
"I hate to be the bearer of bad news," Seard said. "I have compiled a yearly report of Ad Valorem Assessments of the county and from September of 2009 until September of this year we are down over $10 million dollars in taxes."
Seard said $2.5 million was down in public taxes, another $2.2 million in realty and $5 million in personal taxes.
"It's hard to say what is the one factor why these numbers are so high," Seard said. "These numbers are alarming."
According to Seard more than $3 million of the $10 million shortage is in automobile taxes.
"We have really seen a decrease in our car tags for the county," said Seard.
Paul Watson, board president, asked Seard to do a comparison of tax assessments to surrounding and neighboring sister counties.
Washington County Tax Collector, Patricia Lee said it's not that county residents are not paying their taxes, it is that more people are not purchasing new cars.
"We have done more tag renewals this year than in years past," Lee said. "If people do not purchase new cars then the value of that depreciates and goes down every year. We have not had as many new car tags purchases this year. We actually did an audit in June and everything was intact. We are in good standing."
After speaking with sales representatives from local car dealerships, some said the Cash For Clunkers or now known as CARS (Community Assistance to Recycle and Save) gave the car industry a shot in the arm but hindered future potential car sales.
The CARS Act of 2009 was signed by President Obama and ran from July 1, 2009 until November 1, of 2009.
Close to 19,000 car dealerships across the U.S. participated in the program, attracting nearly 680,000 trade-ins, according to www.cars.gov.
In Mississippi, there were 2,928 actual paid transaction with the program, with a total CARS rebate value of more than $12.2 million and sales tax of moreover $4.6 million.
Seard said a combination of depreciation, non-collected taxes and fewer new auto sales are contributing factors to the county’s $10 million less in total taxes year to date.
"Also we've been noticing a higher number of out-of-state tags in the county and around the city of Greenville," Seard said. "Tags from Louisiana, Arkansas and a rising number of blue car dealer tags are all things we need to look at. These factors are just a percentage of the problem for the city."
Lee said taxpayers have until September 30 to pay their taxes; Lee also said the county has yet to have a customer to use the online paying system nCourt.
nCourt, the electronic paying system which was approved by the board of Supervisors on August 16, allows county residents to pay for real property taxes, tag renewals and citations online with a credit card for a fee.
The electronic paying system is available 24 hours, seven days a week, customers can log on to www.nCourt.com.
On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors adopted a county budget of $29.5 million dollars, over the complaints of citizens who attended a budget hearing.
Walley Morse asked the board about the proposed budget and said that in the past five years the city has lost more than 10,000 people yet the budget for sheriffs department increased by 37 percent with the decrease in people.
Sheriff Milton Gaston Sr., acknowledged the lower population but said there has not been a drop in crimes being committed in the county.
Barbara W. Clark, a retired counselor/educator at Coleman Middle School, shared Morse's sentiments and questioned the supervisors’ compassion on raising taxes on county residents.
"I am retired, along with these other ladies who are here in attendance," Clark said. "We didn't retire as educators to pay you all, all of our money. People can’t afford this, already citizens are having trouble paying their water and electric bills.
Clark said being a retired educator after 28 1/2 years of service, to see her property taxes jump in 2009 from $1,200 to more than $1,600 is too expensive.
"I'm being depleted," said Clark. "The people remaining in the county are being taxed to death. Citizens like myself and others are hurting with this wasteful spending the county has put taxpayer's dollars' into like those casinos and title loan companies."
According to Clark, everybody wants to point the finger at the school system, but she said as a former counselor that there are far too many factors which hinder a child's learning.
Morse and Clark questioned the supervisors' loyalty to citizens of the county — that sparked every county supervisor to speak.
Paul Watson, board president said, it is and always has been the boards' responsibility to do what is best for citizens of the county.
"We work hard to be impartial to everyone," said Watson. "We don't want to sit up here on this board like we're some 'fat cats'."
Jesse Amos, District 4 supervisor spoke of how so many jobs that have left the county and country now are located oversees.
"I am going to be honest, this city has turned into a service station," Amos said. "With Wal-Mart and K-Mart being here it is hard to see jobs coming back to this area. The only way I see jobs coming back is if the 'big people' gotta go broke and come together as one group regardless of race; black, white blue or brown."
Al Rankins, District 5 supervisor said he has been on the board for more than 20 years and has always tried to look out for the best interest of the people of this community.
"We go into these budget hearings with no secrets," Rankins said. "There are just some things, some essential services that we must provide to citizens of Washington County. We have cut this budget to the bare. I'm a conservative person and I spend this county’s money as if it were my own...
Ernest Holmes, Distict 5 Supervisor told the county residents that their voices can be heard and impacted next year being an election year.