PAISD OKs tentative pact with Motiva; talks ongoing

Published 12:16 am Saturday, July 6, 2019

Port Arthur Independent School District trustees have approved a tentative agreement with Motiva Enterprises LLC regarding a dispute over taxable values.

PAISD Superintendent Mark Porterie said the two entities remain in negotiations but details of the agreement were not available.

Trustees approved the issue during a recent school board meeting.

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For now, there is no timeline on the issue but therein lies a twist: PAISD is required to adopt a budget by the end of August but without knowing exactly how much revenue they will have, this could become a challenge, Porterie said. There are salaries that need to be funded, certain positions need to be filled and if there is not enough funding, then officials will have to look at ways to cut the budget.

Cutting personnel could be a way to do this if necessary, but Porterie said school system leaders always try to stay as far away as possible from classroom cutbacks.

The dispute began when the Jefferson County Appraisal District appraised Motiva’s taxable value at roughly $3.5 billion but Motiva reportedly believes the value is lower — at $1.5 billion.

Motiva has filed an equity appeal in the issue, according to a story that appeared in The Port Arthur News in April.

There are two ways to file the appeal – either by using the market value, which is what a willing buyer would pay, or ‘equal and uniform’ where they would compare themselves to other similar facilities.

The appraisal district sites the fact that Motiva is the largest taxpayer in Jefferson County and currently the largest refinery in the U.S. and one of the largest in the world.

So, Motiva paid taxes on what they believe to be their value which shorted PAISD $24 million. In addition, PAISD and Motiva are just coming off a 10-year Chapter 313 agreement. According to the Texas State Comptroller’s website, a Chapter 313 agreement is an appraised value limitation where the taxpayer agrees to build or install property and create jobs in exchange for a 10-year limitation on taxable property value for a school district’s maintenance and operations tax purposes.

Once the agreement was concluded then Motiva would owe $30 million in taxes with $24.494 million going toward the school district.

Phyllis Geans, finance director for PAISD, previously said Motiva paid 42% of what they owe.