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Cities, counties in arears on court assessments

JACKSON — State Auditor Stacey Pickering announced that special agents in the State Auditor’s Office have collected more than $1.038 million in unpaid court assessments since Feb. 22.

These assessments collected at the city and county level were owed by the municipalities and counties, not by the taxpayers, and by law, these assessments must be remitted to the State monthly. Some of these assessments date back to 2007. It is estimated that more than $1.061 million has yet to be remitted to the State, despite contacts made by special agents in the Auditor’s Office.

“I am pleased that the majority of the counties across Mississippi are current, and I have made my staff available to all clerks across Mississippi to assist them in complying with the law,” said Pickering. “When the Auditor’s Office began looking into this several months ago, the list of counties with unpaid assessments included 12 counties. Pearl River County and Noxubee County are the only counties that remain on the unpaid list, with unpaid assessments totaling $133,820.02. Municipalities account for a much larger portion of the unpaid assessment including the City of Moss Point, which owes the state an estimated $588,000, and the City of Vaiden that owes $42,543.”

Court assessments include traffic citations written by law enforcement entities across the state. When citations are issued, the fines and court assessments are paid to the city or county government. Once paid, the local government entity is required to remit the state assessments collected on behalf of the State of Mississippi.

“With the current state of the budget in mind, our agency began looking at any ‘normal’ revenue streams that are due to the state and noticed discrepancies in the court assessments,” said Pickering. “Some cities had not made a payment since early 2007. We analyzed all city and county assessments and immediately began making calls to these government entities to inquire. We have discussed this issue with the Department of Finance and Administration, and we plan to work with them to establish a better procedure to notify entities when they are over 60 days delinquent on settling their assessments to the state.”

Other cities on the list are Como, Durant, Greenwood, Lexington, Ocean Springs, Petal, Picayune, Tchula and Tutwiler.

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