Here’s Why Some Property Tax Bills Are Rising in Southern MS

Those planning a big Christmas gift splurge this year might want to check the mail first.

It’s that time of year when property tax bills show up with Christmas cards in the mailbox, and this year, homeowners across southern Mississippi should be prepared to see their tax bill rise.

All three coastal counties were reassessed this year, said Harrison County tax assessor Paula Ladner, and some taxes will go up.

“The bills are coming out this week,” she said.

Homeowners shouldn’t blame their local tax assessor for any increases, Ladner said.

“It’s not something we do randomly. The state requires us to do this every four years,” she said.

Ladner said she expects “the phones will ring non-stop” after the bills are sent.

COVID delays the process for a year

Harrison County was to do a reassessment last year, she said, but chose with Hancock and Jackson counties to wait until this year and not add to the financial burden that many people have suffered during the pandemic.

Not everyone will see an increase, Ladner said.

The increase in the tax bill depends on the region. For homes in a subdivision or area where homes are selling quickly and at higher values, “we’re going to have to make an adjustment,” she said.

It’s not random, she said, and the Mississippi Department of Revenue audits its department every year to make sure the process is done consistently and correctly.

For those whose taxes are paid by their mortgage company, she said the company will typically contact its customers and adjust the escrow account to reflect the new tax rate.

Taxes frozen for some residents

Residents of the coast aged over 65 or disabled benefit from a special rate for family properties and will not benefit from a tax increase.

A state law passed about three years ago benefits residents over 65 or disabled with a special exemption for homesteads.

“Their values ​​have frozen,” said Hancock County tax assessor Jimmie Ladner, and these people won’t see a tax increase unless they’ve made improvements to their property that increase its value. .

Some cities give a break

Residents generally don’t understand the duties of the assessor and tax collector, Ladner said.

“I don’t set mileage rates,” she says. “Cities determine their budget by rateable values.”

School and municipal taxes are included in one bill in Harrison County. Once the reassessment is complete, supervisors and other local officials know what the tax revenue estimate per thousand will be.

Most municipalities and school districts in Harrison County have maintained their rates or reduced the mileage, she said. Although they have not raised taxes, they will see an increase in their income due to rising home values.

Biloxi’s previous mileage rate was 109.89. This was reduced to 109.77.

Gulfport’s mileage rate remained the same at 135.27.

“Bay St. Louis, Hancock County and the schools all cut mileage rates as much as they could,” Jimmie Ladner said.

Jackson County reduced its mileage by one mill, said Jackson County tax assessor Nick Elmore. Cities kept the same mileage and a few school districts reduced the mileage slightly.

This reassessment is no secret, said Jimmie Ladner. Its staff spoke to community groups and the cities and county held public hearings on the budget.

But few people attend budget meetings on the Coast and some locals will be surprised when they receive their bills.

If they think it’s not fair, Jackson County landlords should provide documentation to support their claim to his office, Elmore said.

Paula Ladner said if a homeowner’s new tax bill appears completely wrong, contact the tax assessor’s office and a review could be initiated.

Mary Perez has won awards for her articles on business and casinos for the Sun Herald. She also writes about Biloxi, jobs and new restaurants and developments coming to the coast. She’s a fourth-generation journalist.

Penny D. Jackson