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Slay: Contracting out appraisal work could save county taxpayers money

By By Sheila Blackmon/The Meridian Star
Dec. 29, 2000
Lauderdale County Tax Assessor Jimmy Slay says contracting a private firm for business personal property appraisals could save the county more than $35,000.
Lauderdale supervisors Thursday opened bids for the work, which was done by county employees David Rhodes and Wayne Ellis before they were terminated earlier this year. Supervisors said they expect to act on the bids at their next regular meeting on Tuesday.
Slay said doing appraisals on business personal property such as furniture, fixtures, equipment and inventory cost the county more than $59,000 last year.
Bob Peterson Appraisal Services of Hattiesburg submitted the highest bid at $39,650. Debbie Grubbs of Ocean Springs submitted a $28,700 bid while Statewide Appraisal of Brandon submitted the lowest bid at $24,000.
Slay said limited data entry is the only work not included in the contract.
He also said state law mandates 25 percent of Lauderdale County's 2,200 parcels not including lease accounts or new businesses be appraised annually and that failure to meet the requirement in the past has put the county out of compliance. He said contracted appraisers are governed by the State Tax Commission just as a county employee would be.
District 3 Supervisor Craig Hitt asked how long it would take the appraisers to do the work. Slay said the specifications require the work to be completed by May 15 so he can get the rolls turned over to the board of supervisors in time to meet the state deadline.
Board President Hank Florey wanted to know if Slay is familiar with the firms and their expertise. Slay said he doesn't know anything about Debbie Grubbs. He said many counties have been contracting this type of work out for some time, and Statewide's appraisers have worked for other counties, possibly Hancock and Rankin.
Slay said he won't need an additional employee, and the contracted firm will have someone in his office Monday through Friday to help him answer questions and handle any problems.
District 2 Supervisor Jimmie Smith asked if the contract could be extended at the same rate or if it has to be renegotiated annually.
The contract can't be extended since the option wasn't in the bid specifications. Slay said the contract would have to be signed yearly but some counties don't have to put the work up for bid each year.
Slay said he does not know if the bids would be comparable next year. The number of parcels to be appraised would be the same required 25 percent but the appraisers would have more time to complete the work.
Sheila Blackmon is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail her at sblackmon@themeridianstar.com.