A decision to lower the appraised value of a Val Verde County wind farm will be appealed through a lawsuit to be filed in state district court here, members of the Val Verde County Appraisal District Board of Directors decided Friday.
The appraisal district’s board met to discuss its options regarding a recent decision by the appraisal review board to lower the appraised value of a wind farm in central Val Verde County. The decision by the review board represented a loss of nearly $400,000 in expected revenue for Val Verde County.
The appraisal review board, according to the appraisal district’s web site, is “a group of citizens authorized to resolve disputes between taxpayers and the appraisal district.”
The appraisal review board had reportedly lowered the appraised value of the wind farm by tens of millions of dollars, a move that drew public criticism from members of Val Verde County Commissioners Court.
Members of the appraisal district’s board of directors, including chair Ramiro Guzman and members Pam Smith, Rusty Sewalt, Raymond Meza, Juan Gallegos, Lois Everett, David Lee Torres and Diana Bejarano Salgado, made their decision during an emergency meeting at noon Friday.
After he called the meeting to order, Guzman briefly stated the reason for the meeting.
“One of the appraisal review board’s decisions has raised some questions, and we wanted to see what our options were as a board. Most of those questions involve a lot of legal options that we might have, and so the majority of this meeting will be in executive session. The reason we could not wait until our next quarterly meeting is that there are some legal timelines that we might have to abide by and take action before a certain amount of time passes, so that’s why we called everyone together for this meeting,” Guzman said.
The board then went into a closed executive session to consult with its attorneys on “pending or contemplated litigation … Rocksprings Windmill Farm.”
The board went into closed session at 12:02 p.m. and returned to open session at 12:56 p.m. Friday.
After Guzman reconvened the meeting in open session, he asked if there were any motions.
Meza made the motion “that we appeal the decision made by the ARB (appraisal review board) concerning the Rocksprings Wind Farm.”
Gallegos gave the second, and the directors voted unanimously to approve Meza’s motion.
“Just to reiterate: We’d like to instruct staff that we’d like to be informed when $10,000 of legal fees have been incurred and then again when the second $10,000 of legal fees have been incurred, up to our legal reserve of $20,000 that we have in our budget, and at that point we will see what situation we’re at and inform the (taxing) entities,” Guzman added.
County Commissioner Pct. 2 Lewis Owens, who attended the emergency meeting, waiting in the appraisal district lobby while the board met behind closed doors, asked to address the board after it voted.
“If we get to the point, and I can’t speak for the school district, but I’m sure we’re all going to be in the same boat, that we have an idea of what’s going on as far as cost, and if we get to the point where you’re going to have to come back to us for more money, then before you all get to that point, if you’ll notify us, as things are going and moving forward,” Owens said.
“I think in this battle, the hospital district, school and county is who it’s going to affect, so I’m sure you all have thought about it, but if you’ll just keep us informed,” he added.
Asked after the meeting what form the appraisal district board of directors’ appeal will take, Guzman said, “It will take the form of a lawsuit in district court.”
“We’ll send a letter of notice, which I think has to be within 15 days after the decision of the ARB. The taxpayer has to be notified, and then the appraisal district’s attorneys will file that suit in district court. It will be a similar process a taxpayer would have if they disagree with the appraisal review board’s decision, and that happens on a semi-regular basis,” he added.
Guzman said he isn’t sure if the appraisal district here has ever sued over a decision made by its own appraisal review board, but said elsewhere in the state, “It’s not common, but it’s not unheard of. It’s a process our attorneys are familiar with.”
The members of the appraisal review board are appointed by the appraisal district’s board of directors.
According to the appraisal district’s web site, the current members of the appraisal review board are Jim Wacaser, chair; Robert Clubb, secretary; Belinda Reyes, B’Ann Vaughan, Diane Fitzgibbon and Antonio Perea, alternate.
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