Tax ruling wil cost Hancock big bucks
By Dwayne Bremer
Oct 25, 2013, 23:09
In the past eight years, Hancock County has seen a 400 percent increase in federally-subsidized housing, which officials say has already placed an added burden on local governmental entities.
Now, thanks to a Mississippi Supreme Court ruling last week, that burden will increase even more.
The ruling deals with how local government can tax federally-subsidized housing, such as Section 42 and Section 8 properties.
Hancock County Tax Assessor/Collector Jimmy Ladner said Friday that properties can be taxed three different ways.
The three options include taxing property on how much it is worth, what income is generated, or what the property's market-comparable value is, he said.
The new ruling states that properties can only be taxed by the income model, and that income cannot include subsidies received by the property owners.
After Hurricane Katrina, there was a flood of federally-subsidized housing units built on the Gulf Coast and in Hancock County. At the time, there was a huge need for housing, especially low-income housing while people rebuilt their lives after the storm.
In Hancock County, the number of federally-subsidized units has grown from less than 300 in 2005, to more than 1,300 today, Ladner said.
"These housing units have already put a tax burden on our cities and our schools," Ladner said. "Now, the developers will pay less and the other property owners will have to pick up the tab. It is not the people who are living in the subsidized housing who will benefit, it is the owners."
The law pertaining to how the properties are taxed was adopted by the state legislature in 2005.
It was challenged by the Tax Assessors Association, the Supervisors Association, and the Mississippi Municipal League.
After years of legal wrangling, the supreme court upheld the original law last week.
Ladner said the only recourse for counties and cities is to have legislators change the law back to the old rules.
District 46 State Sen. Philip Moran said Friday that he will do everything he can to help change the law.
"I am glad we have these housing units and have a place for our residents to live, but the owners need to pay their fair share just like you and I," Moran said. "Right now, this is mostly a Coastal issue because of all the developments built here after the storm. It could affect anyone in the state, however."
Likewise, District 122 State Rep. David Baria said he will do what is best for his constituents.
"I don't want anything that is going to increase the tax burden on our local residents and governments," Baria said.