BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Tal Flurry said if he ran the Harrison County Tax Assessor his office the way Biloxi wants him to he'd be breaking the law. Biloxi has accused Flurry of being inconsistent in assigning property values. In particular, city officials are upset about dozens of properties deemed worthless so owners pay no taxes on the structures.
Flurry and his staff shared photographs from at walk they took last year through Casino Magic where they say everything from plumbing to electrical had been removed, torn out or damaged. Flurry said he took that tour with an independent appraiser after city leaders questioned why the Magic and other properties had been given a zero value.
"We looked at every aspect of the property," Flurry said. "It was our determination and that of the fee appraiser that we had with us that based on its current use there was no value to the improvement at that time. The tax assessors in Mississippi are charged to determine the value of properties based on its current use and not its highest and best use. "
Flurry said state law dictates on what building appraisals are based. Those guidelines include utilities, demand for the property, whether the structure can be transferred and whether a similar property can be purchased at a cheaper price.
"It's the desirability of the property. It's the demand for that property," Flurry said. "If there is no demand for something it has no value. If something costs more to restore than you could build it for, you're not going to restore it, you're going to build a brand new one."
Biloxi officials said worthless values make it harder to get owners to deal with blighted properties. Flurry said that's the city's job.
"To ask me to go put value on a property that has no value or put a greater value on that property just to give the owner of that property the incentive to tear it down or fix it up is asking me to break the law," he said. "I'm not going to force a value on a property that doesn't exist just to encourage the owner to fix it up or tear it down."
Flurry insists he tries to be consistent in his assessments.
"If all like properties are being assessed in the same manner then everyone is going to be paying based on the same rate," said Flurry. "You'll be paying not too much and not too little. You'll be paying only your fair share, and that's what we try to do."
Biloxi officials have objected to the property values being dropped to zero without any notification.
"I've worked in the assessor's office for 40 years," Flurry said. "I've been the tax assessor for over 12. I don't believe I have ever had a city or any other governmental agency ask me for a list of all the changes that we make from one year to the next. Not that we wouldn't provide this list. We would be glad to provide this list is they ask for it"
He also responded to Biloxi questioning why the Biloxi Yacht Club pays no taxes on its land or building. Flurry said there is a state exemption for charitable fraternal organizations like lodges.