November 8, 2018 10:49:28 AM
When the Mississippi Legislature convenes in January, Lowndes County officials will ask for the right to assess taxes on businesses operating on Golden Triangle Regional Airport land, a move that will restore $800,000 in revenue for the county and its school district.
"We've talked to both (Rep.) Jeff Smith and (Sen.) Chuck Younger and they've both agreed to ask the Legislature to make those taxes county-option taxes," Lowndes County Board of Supervisors President Harry Sanders said. "We feel like that's the only way it's going to pass."
The request comes after the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled in May that a Rankin County company located on property owned by the Jackson Municipal Airport was exempt from taxes under Mississippi code. Prior to the ruling, businesses located on airport property that were not directly related to airport services -- things such as car rental companies, restaurants and other vendors -- were assessed ad valorem taxes.
The implications of that ruling were substantial in Lowndes County where three major industries -- Airbus, Aurora Flight Sciences and a portion of Stark Aerospace -- are located on GTRA property. Lowndes County lost roughly $800,000 in ad valorem revenue as a result of the ruling.
Sanders said the best chance of restoring that income was to ask the Legislature to allow individual counties to decide whether businesses on airport property should be subject to ad valorem taxes.
"Really, not having the tax only affects about four counties," Sanders said. "For most counties, they couldn't care less and for some counties, they might see the tax exemption as something they can use to attract businesses to their airports. I think the only way enough legislators would support this is to give the counties the option."
Smith confirmed to The Dispatch Thursday that he planned to ask the Legislature to give counties the option to assess the tax.
In Lowndes County, the vast majority of the revenue generated by the taxes -- $700,000 -- went to the Lowndes County School District. Lowndes County School District Superintendent Lynn Wright said getting those funds restored is critical.
"We did all of our budgeting based on that revenue, so when we lost it, we had to take that money out of our budget," Wright said. "Getting it back would mean a whole lot to us. Every dollar makes a difference."
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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