‘No error’: Tax assessor addresses property tax correction
Published 3:00 pm Wednesday, August 31, 2022
Lincoln County Tax Assessor Blake Pickering says a property tax correction in a recent Board of Supervisors meeting was necessary, but not the result of an error by the tax office.
In the Aug. 29 Board meeting, Pickering asked supervisors to approve refunds for the 2019 and 2020 tax sales of a property owned by resident Bruce Tanner.
Tanner’s homestead status was deleted in 2019 after mail sent to his address was returned “undeliverable,” Pickering said.
“I honestly can’t tell you why that happened,” Pickering said to the Board. “He was sent correspondence to come in and provide proof of disability, but it came back. His address looked correct and I can’t figure out why it came back. I then found out a tax clerk decided to delete his Homestead off his account. I’ve remedied that now.”
Tanner’s account was therefore made current and he is now exempt from taxes, since he is older than 65 years of age.
When Board president Doug Falvey asked Pickering why the office had not visited the man’s physical address to correct the issue, the tax assessor said that although his office does that now, that was not the practice when the issue first occurred.
Pickering provided a copy of the tax bill sent to Tanner most recently — dated in July 2022 — marked “Return to Sender / Not Deliverable As Addressed / Unable to Forward” by the U.S. Postal Service.
“There was no error,” Pickering said Wednesday. “Any county in the state would have deleted that Homestead because his mail was returned. I have stacks of returned mail to prove it.”
Homestead is usually not deleted until multiple attempts have been made to reach the property owner, Pickering said, because “I have always done everything I could to give people the benefit of the doubt.”
“Any time I have the option to give the taxpayer the benefit of the doubt, or correct mistakes they made and not penalize them when I don’t have to, I’m going to do that,” he said. “There was no error on the tax office’s part. We did our job.”
“We went above and beyond by sending it to every address we had on file for (Tanner),” Pickering said. “When I said I’m not sure why it happened, it’s that it is not something we would have typically done because my standard for deletion and the level of the benefit of the doubt I give taxpayers is greater or at least as great as any (tax office) in the state.”
Pickering provided the following written statement:
“While this was an unfortunate situation, there was no error on the part of the tax office. It is common practice throughout the state for a county to delete homestead when mail is returned undelivered. We like to give taxpayers the benefit of the doubt but a deletion of homestead, given the information we had, was not an error. With that said, the level of benefit of the doubt that we give to our tax payers is as great or greater than any county in the state and never want to delete a homestead if the person is still entitled to it, even if we are justified in doing so on paper. We err towards giving taxpayers as much leeway as is reasonable under the law, and we always will. We serve our taxpayers first and foremost and will continue to do so as long as I am in office. Regardless of any situation, I want people to know that they when they come to me or anyone in my office that they are being given the best treatment regarding their taxation that we possibly can give them. I pride myself in our office being both fair and generous in our assessments and collections. A deletion is not something we take lightly, and our standard is as high or higher than almost any county in the state. I am extremely glad we were able to rectify the situation as this individual was still entitled to a homestead exemption. I want to thank Supervisor Falvey and the rest of the board for assisting the tax office in that.”
In other business, the board:
- Approved accounts payable and payroll dockets
- Rescinded the order placing District 1’s old vehicles back in inventory and then accepted the highest bids from JJ Merchant
- Approved a request for the HOME Grant Projects and approved payment of a $4,000 invoice to Advanced Environmental Consultants
- Discussed renewal of service agreements with Terry Service for HVACE maintenance at the courthouse and library
- Discussed attending the MAS Fall Educational Workshop in Natchez Nov. 1-3
- Acknowledged an invitation to tour Co-Lin’s campus Sept. 19 and have lunch afterward
- Approved the inter-fund transfer of $850,000 from the General Fund to the HVAC Project Fund ($500,000) and the Courthouse Renovations Fund ($350,000).
- Approved the order fixing levy for the Bahala Creek Water management District for the year 2023
- Approved a resolution declaring conduct adversely affected Lincioln County Road, Stancil Drive and its right-of-way
- Approved a request from the sheriff to enter into a $250 a month service agreement with Auto-Chlor for a dish washing machine
- Approved travel for Chief Deputy Johnny Hall to a two-day training class in Biloxi for the Children’s Advocacy Center
- Acknowledge the delinquent tax report from July, the meal county sheets for Weeks 45 and 46, and personal reports
- Approved the inventory control sheets
- Acknowledged the 16th section lease of Paige Floyd on Mt. Olive Road in Bogue Chitto