Legislation Passed To Keep Down Property Taxes


Legislation to keep property taxes down, especially for the elderly and disabled on fixed incomes, has passed the Mississippi House amid pledges that cities and counties won't lose any revenue.

Reappraisal of property has increased the value of homes and homesteads, so many elderly Mississippians are having to pay property taxes for the first time in years.

State law grants homeowners 65 and older, and the disabled, an exemption from property taxes that would be levied on the first $60,000 appraised value of their residence. The bill would raise that to $75,000 after a county has gone through reappraisal under State Tax Commission guidelines.

Eleven counties have completed reappraisal. Lawmakers said 34 counties are reappraising this year and 37 others are scheduled for next year. Rep. Tommy Reynolds, D-Charleston, told House members the higher exemption is a response to reappraisal, which, fueled by inflation, has resulted higher taxes on property. Reynolds said there would be no loss of revenue to the counties.

The House approved the bill 122-0 Monday, sending it to the Senate. The bill did not address the issue of reimbursement to the cities and counties for their total tax loss. Reynolds said those payments would not increase but cities and counties would experience some increase in revenue because other property would also go up in value. The proposed reimbursement for the next year is $77.5 million.

Local officials say their tax loss is about double that. They have been making up the difference by raising tax rates and spreading the increases around, with residential taxpayers feeling the brunt. Similar legislation is pending in the Senate.

Pike County tax assessor and collector Joe B. Young told lawmakers last month that 170 people over 65 and disabled owed nothing in his county in 1999, but paid property taxes in 2000 when after reassessment, the appraised value of their homes went over $60,000. In Harrison County, the number was 2,900, officials said.