Friday, September 16, 2016
JACKSON Out of the more than 3,000 tax-forfeiture properties the State of Mississippi holds in Jackson, 375 are up for grabs in an active online auction.
By Tuesday, the Mississippi secretary of state's office received 194 bids on the properties, together worth $7.4 million. The Southport Mall Shopping Center, with SP Associates LLC owned and the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality used, is on the corner of Ellis Avenue and Highway 80. It is valued at $1.4 million with a total of $146,063.21 in unpaid taxes.
With so many properties left off the tax rolls and in possession of the State, the first and obvious question is why not just put all the properties up for sale?
"The Secretary of State's Office chooses parcels to include in an auction primarily based on the appraised value of the property and on local interest and local input from elected leaders," Assistant Secretary of State of Communications Leah Rupp Smith stated in an emailed statement to the Jackson Free Press. "In Jackson, for example, there is significant local interest in the Georgetown area, so the agency included mostly lots from that area in the current auction."
"Prior auctions included an emphasis on commercial property and property with home structures," Smith said. "Some counties are smaller, and all parcels may be included in an auction."
Sen. David Blount, D-Jackson, wrote the bill last session that opened the door for online auction of publicly held property.
"We are committed to using every possible means to get abandoned property in Jackson and other Mississippi cities back into productive use," Blount said in a release concerning the auction. "An online auction is another way to get properties back on the tax rolls to revitalize our communities and support our public schools. We especially want to get the word out to encourage local ownership."
The secretary of state's website hosts the auctions here. Users can browse properties included in the present auction, register an account with the State and place bids online—a far cry from the envelope-based system, which is still an option for participants.
With a registered account, users can bid on other properties as well, not only the ones in the auction, Smith explained in the email. In the past, properties deeded over to the State in lieu of back taxes would sit all year long until the annual auctions were held. No longer, as the online portal allows users to search through the list of tax-forfeiture properties from all over the state, and even compile a list of placed bids.
"All properties deeded to the state are available for sale at any time," Smith said. "The Mississippi Legislature and Secretary of State Hosemann viewed online auctions as an affordable, accessible and additional resource to sell properties in the State's possession. Secretary Hosemann's goal is to ensure as many properties as possible return to the tax rolls and back into productive use in the community."
City leaders say that getting as many properties back on the tax rolls and thereby generating revenue for the City of Jackson, Hinds County and public schools is essential for Jackson to begin the long road to fiscal recovery. Recently, the Jackson City Council approved a millage increase to bridge the gap in tax revenue shortfalls over the last year. The City recently launched its Neighbors First program to sell more than 100 abandoned properties to citizens who live near them.
The auction is open and ends on Sept. 28 at 5 p.m.
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