Tax collector says county missing land improvements

Published 8:57 am Monday, July 13, 2020

Tax Assessor/Collector O’Dell Draper, Jr.,  last week asked the Board of Supervisors to consider purchasing a subscription to an instantaneous aerial imagery service for Panola County, a move he said would allow his office to more accurately determine what improvements have been made to properties from year to year, ultimately producing more tax revenue.

“Since I’ve been in office we’ve increased the taxes, but there are a lot of places we can’t get into,” Draper said. “You would be surprised what’s over a gate or behind some trees, and we need to know what all is out in the county.”

Draper made the request at the supervisors’ meeting when he presented Chancery Clerk Jim Pitcock the recap reports of tax assessments of all tracts of property in Panola County for the 2020 fiscal year.

According to the recap the county has a land valuation assessment of $3.6 million more than 2019, mostly because the assessor’s office has worked to identify new construction of structures and additions to existing homes and businesses, Draper said.

Draper told supervisors his office uses maps that are sometimes 10 years old when assessing property values. “In ten years we can lose a lot of money,” he said in seeking approval for the satellite operating system surveillance option.

Assessed valuation of Panola County property in 2020 is $287,361,864, compared to last year’s $283,728,230.

The assessor/collector’s office has no system for identification of additions that improve property, and it’s value, that compares to the advantages of near real-time surveillance, he said. Law enforcement, road and bridge managers, and others in the county could share the expense and also take advantage of the internet-based system.

The county has a permit system for residential construction, setting of manufactured homes, and additions and remodels, but nothing for commercial real estate.

Neither TVEPA nor Entergy will connect electrical service to a house or outbuilding with a permit from the county, but many homeowners build sheds, shops, install swimming pools, and make additions to their homes without needing new electrical service and improve their properties without having the extra value assessed to tax rolls.

Chad Meek, director of the Land Development Office, said commercial buildings or additions in the county do not require a permit because the county declined to adopt the standards of the International Building Codes several years ago.

“The state gave us the option of adopting the IBC or opting out and Panola County opted out because they didn’t want to require fire suppression and sprinkler systems in commercial buildings because the rural water associations could not support the fire suppression systems.”

Draper brought the tax card of one county business – a business located just east of the city limit – as an example of what he deemed to be an under-assessed property. The company has expanded several times since it’s last assessment, and Draper said the county has missed about $200,000 of assessed value at the location.

Supervisors asked Draper to bring more information about an aerial imagery system to future board meetings, and asked Meek to have the county’s Planning Commission present the board with a plan to have county businesses report any structural additions, keeping the county aware of all business expansions.

“It’s not about the county collecting a permit fee or anything like that, but we need to be notified if construction is about to start and made aware of what is going on,” said supervisor Chad Weaver (Dist. 4).

Part of the 2020 assessed value broken into categories is:

  • ● Real property – $164,596,734
  • ● Personal property  – $37,094,370
  • ● Public utilities – $33,370,611
  • ● Mobile homes – $1,124,998
  • ● Motor vehicles – $42,728,02


Draper’s recap showed there is approximately $3.76 million in property assessment subject to school tax only, and about $8.5 million that is considered “fee-in-lieu,” and exempt from property taxes.