Three appeal at tax hearing
Three businesses entered formal tax-related appeals before the Marshall County Board of Supervisors — Amazon, Bank of Holly Springs and Kirkwood National Golf Club.
Amazon entered an incentive agreement with Marshall County saying it had spent $48 million on its property in the Chickasaw Trail Industrial Park. But Amazon came back and asked the tax assessor, Juanita Dillard, to drop the figure to $28 million, according to board attorney Kent Smith.
They were not represented at the public hearing on proposed tax levies Friday, Sept. 11.
Smith said Amazon submitted no supporting documentation with its request for reassessment.
Out of about 25,000 parcels in the county, only three were appealed, Smith said.
Bank of Holly Springs appealed its appraisal by the county at $1,145,180 — currently paying $2.09 per square foot on its historic downtown bank, according to tax office chief appraiser Casey Hillmer. He said the average tax paid for a bank in Marshall County is $2.91 per square foot.
Hillmer said assessment for Bank of Holly Springs is the lowest tax of any of the other banks in the county.
Hillmer and Dillard both said if they lower the assessment on Bank of Holly Springs they expect a flood of other banks to follow course asking for reassessments. Steve Gresham, president
of the Bank of Holly Springs, said he realized this year that the downtown bank evaluation of $1,145,189 by the tax office is way too high.
The property includes the parking lots, drive throughs, and the building itself. The bank is the oldest chartered bank in the state of Mississippi.
Gresham said he has no problem with the assessment of the new south branch bank.
He said the upstairs at the main branch downtown is only used for storage and is not usable for anything else.
“We don’t feel it is worth that much,” he said. “It’s the oldest bank on the square. I feel like the value the tax office used is double what it should be.”
Realtor Greg Gresham argued that the property should be appraised at fair market value. There is no way the building would bring $1.2 million at sale, he said.
“Market value is what it will sell for,” he said.
He said the tax assessor’s office uses the cost approach, which he said has nothing to do with the actual value and that insurance has nothing to do with what you can sell the property for.
“We have to follow the guidelines of the state. We have to adhere to those,” Dillard said. “The bank is well maintained. Hillmer walked through and reduced the value by $100,000. It’s no basis to chop that in half.”
Greg Gresham restated the cost approach has nothing to do with market value.
“The state defines market value as what you can get for it,” he said.
Hillmer said the tax office uses a weighted cost – the cost approach weighted by the market value.
“We use the market to adjust values up and down,” he said. “The state has to approve the thing every four years.”
Smith said to build a structure at $1 million, insurance would be based on the cost approach. District 5 supervisor Ronnie Joe Bennett weighed in on favor of the bank saying “we ought to be thankful for the bank taking care of the building. You want your bank to be clean, look nice and smell good,” he said.
“Marshall County ought to commend them for keeping that bank here on the square. If they moved out, it would sit there and you couldn’t give it away. It’s an asset to the county and to Holly Springs. It’s an old shell with good stuff inside. If they moved out you couldn’t get $500,000 for it.”
Dillard said their taxes are also high because the bank is in the Holly Springs School District and the city, one of the highest tax districts.
“We’re not arguing the tax rate,” Gresham said. “We are arguing the evaluation.” Smith said if the board does not reassess the property, the bank’s next option is to take it to circuit court.
“We ought to be grateful for keeping it on the square,” Bennett added. “It’s history.” Taylor concurred. “Get ready for the others if you do this,” Dillard said. “The board has the authority but look for more. We can’t do more for one than for another.” “I can’t see how you can pay taxes so high on property and can’t sell it for the tax office appraisal,” Bennett added. Hillmer said the tax office has to compare properties with averages across the state. Dillard added that the county reappraises property every four years. Greg Barkley, with Kirkwood National, said his net income on the golf course a year is only $50,000. I’m taxed to death, he said. It’s unsustainable. Values are not anywhere close to what it’s worth.” Hillmer said the golf course was appraised at $45,836 per hole and the clubhouse at $597,000. The land does not depreciate, he said, regarding the value of a hole. Hillmer had it appraised at $600 per acre, he said. “The total tax — land, asphalt, sprinklers — is $825,000 overall, he said.
“We don’t want to lose these,” said Taylor. “People come here from all over the state to play golf. It’s not our job as a board to appraise, but we have the authority to adjust.
“One golf course in the county translates to people coming here and spending money here.” Commercial real estate consultant Chris Wilson, of Oxford, said golf courses are not being built anymore.
Barkley is paying $40,000 to $50,000 a year on the whole golf course properties, he said.
The board passed a motion to take the reappraisal requests under advisement.
Bennett said the board has asked Hillmer to go back over the appraisals carefully to see if there are any adjustments he can find. The board will take it up at the September 22 board meeting.