Appraisal District reaches settlement with Luminant
By Lindsey Vaculin
A settlement has been reached in the lawsuit between Milam Appraisal District and Luminant.
The settlement agreement places the taxable value of two disputed units at $315 million for the tax years of 2015 and for $290 million for the tax year of 2016. Although it was not part of the lawsuit, the Appraisal District and Luminant have agreed on a taxable value of $280 million for 2017.
“The only good news in this is that the county and Rockdale School District can now move forward knowing how much ad valorem tax revenue we can expect, rather than having to guess at what is going to happen,” Milam County Judge David Barkemeyer said. “The bad news is that in one swift action the county lost some 10 percent of its tax base with no way of recovering this in the near future.”
Barkemeyer said we do not know what the outcome would have been if the suit would have been taken to trial by jury in district court. But we can assume that if the Appraisal District’s position would have been sustained and the decision no doubt would have been appealed at significant expense to the county.
The Milam Appraisal District Board of Directors called a special meeting on Jan. 26. The Board, along with Chief Appraiser Dyann White, met in an executive session with their legal counsel, Wayne Fisher and Bernard G. Johnson, III of Fisher, Boyd, Johnson & Huguenard, LLP to discuss the status of the lawsuit.
“The agreed value for 2017 is a good move for everyone,” White said. “It gives both parties time to recover from the lawsuit and provides the entities with some stability in their tax rolls. The agreed values represent a reasonable approach to the value of these plants. We will continue to monitor and address the power market in general as well as the market for coal powered plants.”
The Appraisal District was represented by Wayne Fisher and Bernard G. Johnson at virtually no cost, other than a small retainer to cover some upfront costs. According to the Milam Appraisal District Fisher and Johnson have declined to accept payment for their services, which would be in the neighborhood of several hundred thousand dollars.
“There is no way we could have afforded the type of representation that we received,” Milam Appraisal District Board Chairman Tim Arledge said. “Because of their generosity and love for our community, we will actually be able to give some of the money set aside for this lawsuit back to the taxing entities.”
“I want to personally thank attorneys Wayne Fisher and Bernard (B. J.) Johnson for their excellent service in handling this case for the Milam Appraisal District and for waiving their fees for this service,” Barkemeyer said. “I would encourage all of you county residents that know either of these men to also go out of your way to thank them.”
Barkemeyer said the county’s financial picture will be much clearer now that the uncertainty surrounding Luminant is settled.