In a special call session of the Sunflower County Board of Supervisors on November 26, Attorney Johnny McWilliams informed the county lawmakers that a data entry error resulted in incorrect farmland values being entered into the tax assessor/collector computers for processing.
The county leaders voted unanimously in support of a board order allowing the tax collector’s office to work with the county’s government information systems provider to correct the error. Apparently, if the error had not been discovered it would have resulted in incorrect tax assessments and a possible monetary loss to the county.
McWilliams said, “You use those values to send out your tax statements and collect your taxes.” He said normally the adjustments are recorded into the computer and the statements are generated. “But, something happened, don’t know what, and the computer did not actually update those values, so the values that they have right now are still the 2018 values and they need to be updated for 2019,” he said.
McWilliams said Tax Assessor/Collector Cynthia Chandler and Renee’ Upton had just found out about the glitch, reached out to him and he reached out to the state office for direction and was assured that the problem was easily fixable. He said it was lucky that they found it before the tax statements were mailed out.
McWilliams asserted that this would mean a little bit more taxes coming to the county. Upton told the lawmakers that she could not offer a definite dollar amount at the time, but unofficially it could be nearly a $1.8 million difference, value-wise. She did say that the inaccuracy would only affect about 4,500 to 5,000 real property receipts that are spread from one end of the county to the other.
McWilliams shared that Sunflower County taxes are based on evaluations and then gave the lawmakers a brief synopsis of the process beginning with the tax assessor submitting the land/edit rolls in July for the lawmakers to approve, to the submission to the state office for approval after hearing objections from the property owners, if there are any.
He said, “The evaluations are updated annually based on information they receive from the department of revenue on farmland and we really don’t have anything to do with setting the values on farmland. They are set in accordance with a contract that the state has with Mississippi State University and then whatever those value increases or decreases are they are sent to us and that’s what we have to use.”
McWilliams said the state office told him to get the county board of supervisors to authorize the tax office to work with DataSystems Management to put the correct info in and then send a revised recapitulation roll to the state. Upton said, “DataSystems is on standby, they’re waiting on a board order right now.”
The tax collector was all set to send out tax statements on Monday and was fearful that this new development would hinder that; however, Chandler and Upton assured the board that even if they had to work through the Thanksgiving holiday they would be ready to begin collecting taxes on Monday, although the statements may not have been printed and ready to mail out by then.
McWilliams noted that the error would not affect homestead exemptions or personal property, so no hearings will have to be redone.