ExxonMobil no longer protesting $1.04B appraisal in court

ExxonMobil drops suit The ExxonMobil campus is located just south of The Woodlands west of I-45.[/caption]

A district court judge in September approved ExxonMobil’s request to dismiss its 2015 lawsuit against the Harris County Appraisal District protesting the county’s $1.04 billion appraisal of its 385-acre campus in Spring.

In court documents filed with a Harris County District Court, ExxonMobil claimed the county had placed too high an assessment on the property.

“The district assesses property value annually, and we would prefer to resolve these issues directly and avoid legal action that could extend the time for resolution,” ExxonMobil spokesperson Margaret Ross said.

Palmetto Transoceanic, the legal entity formed by ExxonMobil to develop the campus, filed the original complaint against HCAD in September 2015.

A notice of nonsuit, or a request for dismissal, was granted by 190th District Court Judge Patricia Kerrigan a year later on Sept. 1, the day Palmetto was required by the court to produce extensive documentation on construction and other costs.

HCAD had filed a motion in July asking Palmetto to produce documents including the sales agreement for the ExxonMobil property, site plans, surveys, construction costs and other records.

Palmetto responded on July 25 that ExxonMobil had fulfilled the order as much as it was able, describing the request as a “monumental task” and stating in court documents that gathering the information was “burdensome and expensive.”

The complaint against HCAD alleged the $1.04 billion appraisal was high in comparison with similar property in the appraisal district. Palmetto did not provide examples of comparable facilities in court documents but stated the ExxonMobil property should be “substantially below the value determined by the Review Board.”

The property value was assessed at $1.13 billion in 2016, according to Harris County Appraisal District records.

HCAD is required by law to appraise all property at its full market value, HCAD Chief Communication Officer Jack Barnett said.

"The state tax code gives all property owners the right to disagree and protest the market value if the property owner does not think that value is correct," Barnett said.

One of the largest segments of the facility’s tax bill goes to Spring ISD. The 2015 tax rate in the district was $1.47 per $100 valuation, which would equate to $15.3 million in property tax revenue to the district for a property valued at $1.04 billion.

SISD Chief Financial Officer Ann Westbrooks said earlier this year if the suit was successful the district would have to dip into its fund balance to refund a portion of the amount Exxon paid in 2015.

“The district developed the 2016-17 budget with the assumption that ExxonMobil's tax value would remain at the full appraised value assigned by the Harris County Appraisal District,” Westbrooks said in September after the district learned of the suit’s dismissal. “ExxonMobil’s decision ensures that we will be able to fully support the initiatives needed to meet our goals.”
By Vanessa Holt
A resident of the Houston area since 2011, Vanessa began working in community journalism in her home state of New Jersey in 1996. She joined Community Impact Newspaper in 2016 as a reporter for the Spring/Klein edition and became editor of that paper in March 2017 and editor of The Woodlands edition in January 2019.