Supervisors reject tax protest from phone co.

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Lincoln County Board of Supervisors this week shot down afinancial request from a major U.S. communications company aftercounty officials said it failed to provide an accurate inventory ofits property for tax purposes.

On the advice of Tax Assessor-Collector Nancy Jordan,supervisors on Monday denied a July request from AT&T MobilityLLC that its personal property value be lowered on the 2008 countyland roll. The assessed value of the company’s capital in thecounty – shelters, antennae, transmitters and other equipment – is$372,790.

AT&T is arguing that its accounts are listed at greater thanmarket value, Jordan said. But without an itemized list of itsproperty – something the company has not submitted – the valuecannot, and will not, be adjusted, she said.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

“They won’t do that, and until they do I don’t recommendchanging their value,” she said.

Jordan said the rendition submitted to her office by AT&Twas incorrect. Instead of a detailed list of all the company’sequipment and locations in the county – which is required by lawfor a property value adjustment – she received simply a list ofdifferentiating values.

In a letter addressed to the board last month, AT&Tsubmitted a list of 14 locations in the county that comparedowner’s estimated market value, owner’s assessed value andassessor’s value. The letter does not contain the itemized listingof individual pieces of equipment that Jordan requires.

AT&T has failed several times over the last few years toupdate a rendition of its personal property within the county,Jordan said.

Everyone on the land roll is required by law to provide anitemized list of capital and where it is located, Jordan said. Shesaid her office sends out rendition forms to all entities on theland roll every year, which are supposed to be updated with new,depleted or removed properties so the county can make an accurateassessment.

And while anyone can ride around the county and count cell phonetowers at the 14 listed locations, the exact number and value ofAT&T’s Lincoln County capital is unknown, at least in the taxassessor’s office.

“If I knew that, we wouldn’t have this protest,” Jordan said.”They do not update me each year with what they have in my countyor what has been disposed of in my county.”

AT&T’s property value protest was the only one of its kindsubmitted to the county this year, Jordan said. She said the valueof AT&T’s property would affect the company’s property taxes,which will not be known until the millage rate is set inOctober.

“Until they render me what they own, have disposed of orreplaced, the current assessment will stand,” she said.

Normally, the tax assessor is the sole handler of property valueadjustments, but without the updated property rendition, Jordansaid any change would require a board order.

Similar issues with AT&T have arisen in neighboring countiesas well.

Copiah County Tax Assessor Todd Mooney said the company alsofiled a value protest with his office, using allocated costs on itsrecent buyouts of other companies instead of an exact listing ofpersonal property.

Mooney said Copiah’s supervisors denied AT&T’s objectionearlier this week.

“Using allocated cost, in our opinion, is not a good deal,” hesaid. “They’re arguing the value, but just because you paid adollar for something doesn’t mean it’s worth a dollar.”

Mooney said one of the biggest problems faced by counties whendealing with companies as large as AT&T is finding similarproperties with which to make a comparison.

“Who are you going to compare it to?” he explained. “It’s thesame as with big construction companies – they say they have a lotof equipment, but how are you gonna find it?”

Mooney pointed out that value protests are often made on behalfof large companies like AT&T by tax representatives. In CopiahCounty, Duff and Phelps LLC – an international financial advisingcompany – filed the protest, he said.

The same tax representative company submitted AT&T’s protestto Jordan as well.

Upon Lincoln County supervisors’ denial of AT&T’s valueprotest, Jordan submitted to the board a letter addressed to thecompany that outlines the county’s position. The letter will bereviewed by board attorney Bob Allen and dispatched to AT&T,where Jordan expects it will have little effect.

“We won’t hear any more from them,” she said.

Chancery Clerk Tillmon Bishop said value protests from entitieson the county land roll is uncommon, but not unheard of. Mostprotests are made during reassessment years, he said.

“I don’t recall that many objections [recently], but you do havethem from time to time,” he said. “But most of the time we havevery few – if any.”