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County to profit from tax revenue

By By Kerry Whipple-Bean
Escambia County and Brewton schools are set to lose a total of about $1.9 million beginning in 2007 unless a tax renewal comes up for a vote again sometime next year.
But the schools will still gain some of that revenue back because the county's tax assessment is up about $2.3 million over last year.
Total school tax revenue for both the city and county would be up by about $1 million under the new assessment, but that figure includes the 4 mills that would not be renewed after next year.
Escambia County Tax Assessor Jim Hildreth said the tax assessment figures are preliminary and do not yet account for any appeals that may be granted.
Earlier this month voters defeated the renewal of 3 mills in school taxes for county schools and a 1-mill countywide tax that would have benefited both county and city schools.
School officials said the defeat would cost about $1.7 million for Escambia County schools and about $70,000 for Brewton City Schools.
Beginning next year, Escambia County residents will see a new tax assessment every year.
Alabama is phasing in annual tax assessments by county, and Escambia County's annual reappraisals will begin next year, Hildreth said.
"The increases will be a lot smaller than they are every four years," Hildreth said.
The annual tax reappraisals have become somewhat of a political football this year. Lt. Gov. Lucy Baxley, the Democratic candidate for governor, calls the annual appraisals a "back-door tax," while Gov. Bob Riley's administration has said it is simply following the law.
Atmore has a greater percentage increase in its valuation, Hildreth said, but that's because property values had been the same for several years longer than in Brewton.
"Atmore actually has more parcels of land, because their population is larger," Hildreth said. "And the land values in town had not been changed in several years."
The tax assessment changes also mean that Escambia County's general fund budget would grow by about $207,100 next year, and the City of Brewton would gain about $75,491. The hospital board would also gain about $207,100.