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PAISD agrees on Motiva tax refund payments — “Taxes are going to go up,” official says

The Port Arthur Independent School District settled a year-long dispute with Motiva Enterprises LLC over taxable value.

The dispute began in the fall of 2019 when the Jefferson County Appraisal District appraised Motiva’s taxable value at roughly $3.5 billion.

Motiva reported the value much lower at $1.5 billion, arguing the company had overpaid taxes previously given for bond debts.

District officials voted during their Thursday board meeting to make the first two payments of just over $4 million to the Port Arthur refinery under the Motiva Tax Refund Payment Agreement.

The amount owed is $8.5 million.

The first of these payments were made this month. The final payment will be made in October 2020.

Phyllis Geans, assistant superintendent for business and finance, said the decision adversely affects the district’s budget, which was originally calculated at $21 million including the taxes from Motiva.

“What it does is it adversely affects the funds we have,” she said. “The community can protest their value and say ‘It’s too high,’ but when a large company does it, it results in an $8.5 million payback that was intended to pay debt, teacher salaries and maintenance operation costs.”

In the end, Geans said taxpayers will play a large part in continuing to pay employees and bond debt.

“Taxes are going to go up,” Geans said. “We cannot take that large of a decrease and keep our rate the same. It’s just going to go up.”

Geans said the appraisal district will assess the valuations with the district with a tentative decision given by July 25.

Port Arthur ISD’s budget will need to be approved by Aug. 30 with the new tax rate.

A budget change request for a decrease in the fund balance and an increase in expenses for the Motiva Tax Refund was also approved at the meeting.

“We have to maintain some kind of fund balance,” Gean said. “We are trying to decide how to make it work right now, but it’s been an ongoing battle.”