CAD approves $12.4m budget; $1m is for lawsuit over Western Refining valuation
by David Crowder
Posted on June 12, 2009
The El Paso Central Appraisal District board approved a $12.4 million budget Thursday night, but not before government watchdog Lisa Turner was escorted from the meeting.
Turner could not be reached for comment, but her friend and ally, Ric Schecter, said Turner was ejected when she challenged assertions by interim CAD Chief Appraiser Dinah Kilgore about the district’s deadline for approving the budget.
That followed an earlier disagreement with the board about how it was supposed to conduct the public hearing on the budget.
“They wanted the public to speak during the public comment part of the meeting, not on the item calling for a public hearing,” Schecter said. “The chairman just said, ‘nope.’
“Lisa said, ‘Then, it’s not a legal hearing.’ ”
Schecter said the board chairman, acting without the help of lawyer to advise the board, determined that they were right.
In taking up the budget, Kilgore said the board had to approve it by June 15 under law and to get it to the 30 taxing jurisdictions that help finance the appraisal district, 16 of which have a say on the budget.
Turner contended that the board has until the end of September to approve it.
“They threw her out because she told Kilgore it wasn’t true,” Schecter said. “That’s when they told the board to take her out.”
Kilgore confirmed Schecter’s account, and said Turner was simply wrong about the law and was ejected for repeatedly returning to the microphone to make comments after she had had her turn.
She said the board approved the proposed $12.4 million budget, which was 1.7 percent or $200,000 over last year’s. Originally, the district had proposed a 5 percent increase.
Schecter questioned why the board had set $1 million aside for legal fees to cover an ongoing lawsuit with Western Refining over its valuation. The district has completed its preliminary valuations.
The $1 million legal fund is, Schecter said, too much and questioned the need to spend the money fighting over the refinery’s valuation.
But Kilgore said the case has yet to be tried, and it may not be enough.
“This kind of lawsuit is very expensive,” she said. “The Howard County CAD, that is in Big Springs, had a case over a refinery, and it cost over $1 million.”
Because of improvements made at the refinery in recent years, Kilgore said, the CAD has raised its valuation from $198 million in 2006 to $368 million in 2007 and then to $370 million in 2008.
This year’s appraisal has also gone up.
“If we just accept their figure, it’s a lot of money, especially for the school districts,” Kilgore said. “They filed the suit.”
In the Big Spring case, according to a news release on the Website of law firm of Popp, Gray, and Hutcheson, "Alon USA challenged the 2006 market value of $130 million and the 2007 market value of $320 million" and $275 million in 2008.
"Under advisement of the court, both sides met and reached a settlement for tax years 2006, 2007 and 2008. This agreed judgment brought no change for the 2006 market value, revised the 2007 market value to $185 million and revised the 2008 market value to $175 million. With the settlement Alon USA property tax liability will be reduced by about $4.5 million."
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To reach David Crowder, write to firstname.lastname@example.org or call (915) 351-0605, ext. 30
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