In my opinion, he is the perfect public servant.
Accessible: He is almost always in his office and will stop whatever he's doing to talk to a taxpayer. When I first moved here, he spent a lot of time explaining to me how taxes work in Mississippi, which is quite different from the way it's done in Maryland, where I moved from. I went to see him several months ago for help writing an article for this blog about how tax assessments are done. He took time to go over the process in detail and answered all my questions. I've been in his office several times, and I've seen him deal with the public.
Honest and Fair: He has never had a complaint lodged against him in his 12 years in office. He's only had 6 appeals in all that time, and none were upheld by the Board of Supervisors. If you point out a mistake to him, he'll correct it. In fact, he pointed out a mistake in mine that I didn't even notice! He has passed all of the state audits on his office with flying colors.
Competent and Experienced: The Tax Assessor appraises property. That's all he does. He doesn't determine how much tax you pay. That's done by the County and City officials. You want someone is that office that knows about and is experienced in appraisals. Reynolds was an appraiser for 17 years before opening Atkins Lumber Co. He went back into appraisals when he was elected Tax Assessor, and he turned his business over to his sons.
When I wrote my previous post, he sent me the following statement and asked me to post it here, which I am happy to do:
Don't be misled!
The Tax Assessor's job is to value property by making property assessments. Jerry Lyles says in his ads that taxes are too high, and he will lower assessments. He could lower property assessments as much as he wants, but it would not change the amount that property owners pay in taxes. The Board of Superviors and the Board of Aldermen and the School Board would just increase the millage (tax rate) to get the money they need for their budgets.
In addition, the Mississippi State Tax Commission audits the Tax Assessor's offices four times a year to determine that assessments are done in a fair and equal manner. If a Tax Assessor does not follow the rules of the Tax Commission, they can decide to turn down the Tax Assessor's tax roll. If this happens, they can withhold all homestead exemption money and the one mill imposed for use for reappraisal ($190,000 a year).
Currently, all appraisals are handled by the me and my staff at no additional cost to the County. This has been a savings of over $1,000,000 in the 12 years I've been in office. Jerry Lyles has no appraisal experience and will find it necessary to hire contract appraisers for about $70,00 per year. In 2009, a reappraisal year, the cost will be over $200,000.
If you have any concerns, questions, or problems with your taxes, please come to our office. We are always available to taxpayers.- Reynolds Atkins, Tax Assesssor
BOTTOM LINE: The job of the Tax Assessor is to appraise property. Atkins is an appraiser, and Lyles is not. Who do you vote for? DUH!