Complaints aired about 'responses' to taxpayer

by Nicole Stokes

The Franklin County Board of Supervisors listened to a complaint regarding the tax assessor’s office during the panel’s May 15 business meeting.

Renee Huff of Plano, Texas, addressed the board and Franklin County Tax Assessor Talina King Matthews questioning why her parents’ home and property in Garden City was assessed at a much greater value than its worth.

Huff said she repeatedly called the tax office since her father passed away, trying to gain an understanding of the levies on his property, but was put off, deflected and unable to get an answer from anyone — to the point she called the Adams County assessor’s office to get the information she needed.

She also said she felt disrespected by the way Matthews responded to her over the phone.

“I have called this office on several occasions to try to understand the taxes on the property,” Huff said.

“There’s a homestead that’s supposed to be done on the property. I have called the office, and what I now know is that (Matthews) is actually the tax person I need to talk to.

“In talking to this young lady, who is present this morning, I’m unable to get any type of closure on where, what and how the taxes happen. And in talking with her about those taxes, I’m taken aback because I’m not allowed the opportunity to actually tell her what my concerns are, so that she can address them appropriately.

“In talking, she cross-talks over me ... she makes sounds ... there’s quietness on the phone. I am 58 years old, if the Lord will let me see it, I give respect. And when I’m calling to find out about the property as it relates to where my father lives, I need to understand that.

“What I do want to say is this, Mrs. Talina, when you addressed me on the phone and I was speaking with you in reference to my father’s taxes, you were very disrespectful.

“As an elected official, we have to have character. We have to talk as if we’re talking to adults. In this office, you are elected, and all I’m trying to do is find out how, why and what.

“You keep telling me about ‘There is a map.’ There is a map, but we all know that on most of these properties there are things that’s on there, that’s either old or torn down, and you are an appraiser. It’s your job to go out — and I’ve asked. ‘Let’s go out. Let’s see.’

“Well you can’t do that. That’s a problem. Well, if you can’t do it, then I can pay someone to do it and they can come out and bring that back to you. So now, I have to put my things on hold, and drive here to stand before you when I shouldn’t have to do that.

“If you don’t know how to give me that answer, every elected official here knows somebody that knows somebody that can get you your answer. But what I had to do is get off the phone and call Natchez, Miss.

“I talked to Myra. And she explained to me what it is that Mrs. Talina could not explain. I have different cash values on this property from one year to another year I need to understand. The house that’s on that property out there is so old I’m pretty sure your house, your house and the rest of those houses value is way more than mine could be.

“I expressed that to Mrs. Talina. She refused to go out there. She refused to hear my cry. And she said, ‘Ma’am, it’s a map.’ And I’m saying, ‘I got that.’

“My job this morning is not to put Mrs. Talina down, but I can tell you this much — if these taxes are not paid on this property, my mother’s got to try to find somewhere to go. And I’ve got to try to get down here to this step to make sure that I can pay for it so that she can have somewhere to stay.

“COVID-19 happened. And all I was trying to do was say, ‘Look, we didn’t get anything that says homestead from death, burial, divorce.’ She said she sent something. I handle everything. I didn’t get it.

“In talking to her, I couldn’t get (an) answer. I sent my other sister down here because at this point, I’m hot and I’m mad. Because this is a simple transaction. Just talk to me about the numbers and tell me what (I need to know).

“‘What can we do? Why is this so high?’ I’ve got money, but I’m trying to understand why is it this high. My Bible tells me, in all of your getting, get an understanding.

“I have to understand why these numbers are there, and once I understand that I’m good, because it’s been made plain.

“For me to have to call another county, that has no dealings with Franklin County, that is ridiculous ... that is absurd. And when you hold this office, you hold it because the people put you in office, and the answers that they need, they need them. And there’s enough people that’s onboard that could help you find those.”

Board attorney Bill Halford brought up the annual process of reviewing the land rolls and recommended Huff come to the hearing this year to object to the assessed value, to which Huff responded she tried to get the information she needed before the land roll was accepted.

“The chargeback is what I was after,” she said.

“That information could have been given to me. (Someone could have said) ‘Mrs. Huff, here’s the land roll for x, y, z,’ (or) ‘I sent this out in June of x, y, z. You didn’t get it? I have a copy of it.’ Talk to me and let me know what you have done. It’s communication.

“It’s not acceptable, and I still need someone to explain this property. And if I have to go back down to that office and deal with that, God forbid. Because everyone up there that answered the phone, as I was trying to explain to her, they don’t greet you, they’re dead, they’re dry. I don’t want to act like I’ve got to kiss somebody’s behind. I’m not going to do that.

“The things in that office are not ran properly. And it’s a shame that I have to stand here as if my back is up against the wall because that’s her office, and I’ve got to call another county. And I know when I walk out of here, I (still won’t) know what to do.”
“(The assessments) are done, somebody has already been out there,” Matthews responded.

“I was never invited out there. I told her when the assessments are done. I did mention that Mr. Huff didn’t have Mrs. Huff on the homestead, but I was never invited to go out there.

“I don’t shy away from visiting properties because I like to actually be able to do an appraisal, but I did mention that Wayne and his team had already been out there.

“The appraisals happen from March to April. They ride and the auditors come behind them. A reassessment was done in 2019 as well as 2023.

“What people don’t understand is, the values are from a table prescribed by the Department of Revenue.

“And the values of properties are based on market comparisons. So we have to consider what a house would go for inside of this market. So that plays into how those properties are valued.

“The only concern here is the dollar amount on the tax bill. A $55,000 value to a home of that size is more than reasonable. I spoke to my appraiser — I actually sent her to the appraiser so he could explain it as I did, and I’m sure Mrs. Myra said the same thing that I did.

“So, we start with the square footage. Of course, the materials that the home is made out of plays a part. The value of the homes, however, appreciates.”

In the end, District 5 Supervisor Jimmie “Bodi” Bass, who also serves as the board president, told Huff he would review the information she had and understand what she needed, and act as a mediator between her and Matthews to get the issue resolved.

In other business to come before the board, the panel took the following actions:

• Approved travel expenses for coroner Billy Gill and deputy coroner Kelly Hunt to attend the Mississippi Coroner and Medical Examiner Association summer conference and meeting in Biloxi.

• Gave approval for Franklin County to be included in the 2023 HOME Partnership program.

• Approved payment of claims to Belinda Stewart Architect for work in regards to a Mississippi Department of Archives and History grant for historic courthouse repairs in the amounts of $1,137.22 and $1,155.10.

Chancery Clerk Jill Jordan Gilbert told board members she had received a note from the architectural firm stating they will reassess the scope of work to be done and get better figures on the work needed.

In a previous supervisors’ meeting, bids were received from contractors that were greater than could be accepted due to the amount of money budgeted by the county to pay its matching portion of the repair grant, as well as greater than the amount of the grant itself.

• Gave approval to pay Gilbert’s annual Mississippi Chancery Clerks’ Association dues totaling $1,000.

The next regularly scheduled business meeting for supervisors is set for 9 a.m., Monday, June 5 at the courthouse.

The session is open to the public.