The Hinds County Board of Supervisors denied an electric-tool manufacturing company's request to not pay more than $1 million in property taxes this morning. The company, Milwaukee Tools, claimed it overestimated the inventory reported to the county last year, and therefore should not be required to pay taxes on an incorrect assessment.
The company owes the county $1.4 million in ad valorem taxes for 2011, which were due Feb. 1. Jackson attorney Christopher Pace said that the Milwaukee-based company mistakenly reported inventory for all three of its Mississippi branches in Olive Branch, Jackson and Greenwood to Hinds County and should only pay $75,000 in taxes.
"It was a clerical error," Pace said.
In anticipation of the taxes, the county included the $1.4 million into its budget for the current fiscal year. The unpaid amount has a large impact on the county's budget, Hinds County Attorney Crystal Martin said.
"Because it is such a large amount, and the company did not believe it was the correct amount, they elected not to pay the taxes until the issue had been resolved," Pace said.
Hinds County Tax Assessor Charles Stokes said his office hadn't received notification of the error in the proper time period. The tax assessors' office sends notices to property owners with assessments totaling more than $10,000 each spring. Property owners then have until August to file a formal protest and appear before the tax assessor's office or the board of supervisors. Stokes said that he did not receive contact from the company until December 2010.
"It was not, in my opinion, a mistake on the tax assessors part," Stokes said.
Milwaukee Tools had also applied for a Free Port Warehouse tax exemption, which exempts companies from paying taxes on property that they are holding to ship outside the state. But the company submitted the filing for the tax exemption after the March 31 deadline and therefore, the county could not approve it.
"Both county and company tried to figure out how they could get it applied to fix the problem," Pace said. "It came down to the fact that the exemption expired and no one had the authority to do that."
The company currently employees 67 people at its Jackson branch. Hinds County Development Economic Authority Director Blake Wallace, spoke in support of the company at the meeting.
"They are maintaining jobs in our community," Wallace said. "And these are well paying jobs. If you can help them, we recommend that you do that."
District 3 Supervisor Peggy Calhoun's motion to deny the tax exemption passed with a unanimous vote, and District 2 Supervisor Doug Anderson absent.
"I believe in having personal responsibility," Calhoun said. "And part of personal responsibility is accepting your employees' errors. ... Milwaukee Tools have had ample opportunity to go back and correct the mistake that has been made, and for whatever reason you choose not to correct the error. But today you come and ask that the tax assessors office make the correction for you."
Calhoun suggested that the company apply for a tax credit next year.
"I believe in having personal responsibility," Calhoun said. "And part of personal responsibility is accepting your employees' errors..."
Perhaps the Hinds BOS should own up to their errors as employees of the citizens of Hinds County. Like over the debacle with Byram PD and the radios. And with Nathan Hargrove and Airwave. Just sayin'