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County, City Supervisors Fight Over Nissan Plant Taxation

Fri, 05/20/2011 - 9:11am

CANTON, Miss. (AP) — Madison County supervisors want the city of Canton to stop its efforts to annex and tax the Nissan assembly plant.

Canton officials said a 2000 law that prevents them for annexing and levying property taxes against it for 30 years is unconstitutional. The city has asked a Madison County judge to throw out the law.

Supervisors said the action would make other industry think twice before investing in the region.

The city also seeks a ruling on whether an agreement made by the previous mayor and aldermen not to annex Nissan is still binding. The law provides Canton cannot annex the Nissan site for the first 30 years without written consent by Nissan.

"As for the state constitution, when you are asking a city for ad valorem tax exemption and for them not to annex, those are issues that should be for local and private matter and not general legislation," said city attorney Barbara Blackmon, who was in the Mississippi Senate when the law was enacted.

"As for the U.S. Constitution, the state was depriving the citizens of Canton the right to annex this property for 30 years," Blackmon told The Clarion-Ledger.

The automaker makes payments in lieu of taxes to the Canton School District and Madison County. Madison County uses Nissan's funds to make payments on bonds used for public infrastructure improvements for the plant.

"Nissan has lived up to the commitments it has made to the state, county and city (of Canton)," Nissan spokesman Steve Parrett said previously.

Canton School District finance director Clara Gray said the fee is shared with the county based on the millage rate.

"We have received $2.09 million this year," Gray said. "Under a new agreement with Nissan, the district will not get less than $2 million a year."

The 2010 tax statement from the Madison County tax assessor states Nissan paid an estimated $3.3 million in real and personal property taxes.

Nissan has operated the $1.4 billion Canton plant since May 2003. Company officials recently announced plans to increase production from four to six vehicles at the plant, which has 3,300 employees.

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