Tax Increase Likely For Hancock County Residents

When property tax bills go out in December, Hancock County residents may see increases.

The County Tax Office recently completed a property assessment update and most property values are up. That, coupled with school districts that are financially strapped due to state budget cuts, could end up costing taxpayers more.

Tax office workers have spent the past several months updating property values throughout Hancock County. The assessment update on home and businesses has sparked concerned from some property owners.

"There's been a lot of talk about property taxes rising in Hancock County," Hancock County Tax Assessor Jimmie Ladner said. "What the tax assessor has been doing is what we're required to do by law every year, is setting the market value of the county for assessment purposes."

Ladner said over the past 12 years, the market value of most properties in the county have gone up, and this year is no exception.

"We're going to see some increases in values this year. In some areas of the county we're going to see heavy increases. I think the major concern that people have is 'What is it going to do to my taxes at the end of the year?' To be real honest, at this point I don't know."

The assessment is only one part of the equation for the taxing process. The other part of the equation is school taxes. Rising costs and state cutbacks mean school districts need more money.

"The big unknown is whether or not the state will be able to meet its obligations for our funding," Bay-Waveland Superintendent Kim Stasny said.

Stasny's School District needs another $540,000 to operate next school year. Hancock County Schools need $425,000 more.

Stasny says property insurance will jump $130,000 for the district. Liability insurance increased 25 percent last year, and it's going up again.

"We have no idea what it will increase by this year, but we know there will be an increase."

Once the property tax assessments are totaled, the school district will have to look at whether increased values bring in enough money to cover costs. If not, the school district may have to ask the city to okay a tax increase.

Last year all properties in Hancock County had a total assessed value of $308 million. Tax Assessor Jimmie Ladner says this year's total will be released July first.

By Al Showers