TEXAS CITY — Valero’s court victory in contesting its Texas City refinery property valuation prompted a call by the county’s tax assessor for the central appraisal district to dump the firm that handles industrial value calculations.
In 2011, the Galveston Central Appraisal District assessed three of Valero’s properties, which include the refinery, to have a taxable value of $526.8 million. Valero argued that appraisers did not fairly compare the refinery with other industrial properties in the city and that the value of the facility was actually $333.4 million.
On Feb. 8, a jury in Judge Lonnie Cox’s 56th District Court ruled in Valero’s favor and lowered the company’s assessed value by $189.4 million for the 2011 tax year. That means the Texas City school district, the city, county and College of the Mainland are set to refund Valero about $4.874 million.
While the Galveston Central Appraisal District is likely to appeal, County Tax Assessor Cheryl Johnson renewed her call for the appraisal district to fire Hugh Landrum and Associates, the firm that has handled the industrial valuations for the district for about a decade.
“The history of the (Galveston Central Appraisal District) over the last decade with regard to defending its values has been dismal,” Johnson said. “It has failed to hire qualified, convincing companies to perform the industrial valuations, convincing qualified experts, and it has not developed a winning legal team or have a legal strategy that is successful.”
Calls to Hugh Landrum Jr., the president of the firm and a former Texas City City Commissioner, were not returned Wednesday.
Ken Wright, the district’s chief, said now was not a time to point fingers, but admitted he is not happy with the work Landrum and Associates did on the Valero case.
“Taking action hastily really would not accomplish what you want,” Wright said. “When you have calmer heads prevail the right decision will be made that won’t be in conflict with our goals.”
Wright said it would be up to the appraisal district’s board to decide whether changes are needed.
Landrum and Associates is a 45-year-old engineering firm that specializes in valuating industrial facilities. The work is complex and includes a lot of regulation exemptions, including exemptions for environmental equipment and the little-known comparison law that Valero used in this case.
The firm also handles industrial valuations in Brazoria, Dallas, Fort Bend, Harris, Liberty, Polk, Waller and Wharton counties.
The Jefferson County appraisal district is facing a lawsuit by Valero over its property values that were not handled by Landrum and Associates, but another firm.