Nueces County Chief Appraiser Ronnie Canales tells 6 Investigates refining giant Valero is denying appraisers access to their Nueces County properties in what he considers a new tactic in the running battle over the company’s annual property tax valuations.
“This year, we’re allowed on the outside of the fence (but) we’re not allowed to come in,” Canales says. “So really, their tactics are getting to be change for some reason or other. Why? We don’t know.”
Canales says it is typical for industrial taxpayers to allow appraisers on to their properties to allow for an accurate valuation estimate and says both Flint Hills and Citgo have allowed site tours, this year.
“Up until this year, with Valero, we’ve actually gotten into the site – into the refinery itself,” he says. “We’ve (received) the tour, pointed out some of the things they have or don’t have or have problems with, so that we can make adjustment as time goes.”
Valero says it’s a misunderstanding, and that they stand ready to work with the Appraisal District.
“Valero had a scheduled visit with the Nueces County Appraisal District on February 7. These annual visits normally include conversations with site personnel about the refinery and a driving tour through Valero’s facilities in Nueces County, which have been done for many years. Due to unforeseen operational requirements on that day, we did have to reschedule the driving tour portion of the visit, something we offered up immediately. We have had subsequent discussions with NCAD’s consultants over the refinery. The offer continues to remain open for NCAD to come onsite for a scheduled driving tour of our property.”
Valero and Flint Hills have contested recent valuations in court, a practice critics say is an abuse of a state tax law meant to ensure property owners are not unduly burdened with skyrocketing tax valuations, which determine their actual tax bills.
When the county appraisal district wins, the tax bills are unchanged. When the industries win, local taxing entities like school districts, community colleges, cities and counties, are required to issue refunds.
In Nueces County, more than $20 million in combined refunds have gone to Valero and Flint Hills in recent years, Canales says.