Jefferson County irked at Motiva contesting appraisal

Published 6:00 pm Monday, February 5, 2018

BEAUMONT — County Judge Jeff Branick said he’s chagrined with Motiva Enterprises in Port Arthur.

Branick announced at the regular meeting of the Jefferson County Commissioners Court on Monday that the refinery is contesting its property appraisal with the Jefferson County Appraisal District. They can contest at least 30 percent variance of the appraised value for what they consider to be fair market value.

“I’m sad for all the taxing entities,” Branick said. “I’m very disappointed with Motiva’s operations, especially with them doing it so late in the tax season.”

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Motiva’s hearing with the appraisal review board is set for March 7.

Everette “Bo” Alfred, Precinct 4 commissioner, said there is a rule that allows Motiva to contest the appraisal.

Branick concurred that it’s in the tax law.

Michael “Shane” Sinegal, Precinct 3 commissioner, said it’s similar to Valero Refinery in Port Arthur contesting property values with the Port Arthur ISD.

The challenge Port Arthur ISD faces, as well as some other governmental entities in Jefferson County, is the result of a series of lawsuits by Valero Refinery in Port Arthur regarding its appraisal value stretching back to 2011, according to a prior Port Arthur News article.

PAISD was hit the hardest because of its bond and tax rate. For instance, the Interest & Sinking fund tax rate is $1.35 per $100 valuation and it varies based on assessed values.

Valero was able to contest its appraised values under a change in the law in 1997 called the “Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.” That language states the appraised value of the property exceeds the median appraised value of a reasonable number of comparable properties appropriately adjusted. Thus, equity trumped market value.

The most current lawsuits were settled in October and November of this year in district courts in Jefferson County.

“This is not standard operating procedure,” Branick said. “This is detrimental to local governments who have already set their budgets for the year.

“Motiva blamed this on Harvey why they had to do this, but that was on Aug. 29. It’s circular reasoning.”

The company issued a statement in response.

“Motiva values its relationships with the local community and civic leaders.  We are engaging with representatives from the appraisal district to work toward a fair assessment of our property.”