Montgomery County v. Humble Oil & Refining Co., 4786
|31 December 1951
|245 S.W.2d 326
|MONTGOMERY COUNTY et al. v. HUMBLE OIL & REFINING CO.
|Texas Court of Appeals
Looney, Clark & Moorhead, Everett L. Looney, and R. Dean Moorhead, all of Austin, Geo. B. Darden, A. K. Stewart, and Arnold Smith, Conroe, for appellants.
Knox W. Gilmore, Houston, W. C. McClain, Conroe, for appellee.
This is an appeal by appellants Montgomery County, Texas, its Tax Assessor-Collector, members of its Commissioners' Court and its County Attorney, from an order of the Special Ninth District Court of Montgomery County, by which order said District Court upon the suit of appellee Humble Oil & Refining Company, enjoined them by a temporary writ of injunction from collecting or attempting to collect any taxes for the year 1950 from appellee, except upon the valuations as rendered by appellee. The order was entered and temporary injunction granted after an extended hearing before the court.
Humble Oil & Refining Company's first amended original petition, upon which the hearing was had, after the formal allegations, alleged and prayed as follows:
'That for the year 1950, and within the time required by law, and on or about the 19th day of April, 1950, plaintiff filed with the Tax Assessor-Collector of Montgomery County, Texas, its rendition and inventories of its properties within said county, the description and rendered value of which, in so far as the properties herein involved are concerned, and reflected by a true copy of said rendition attached hereto and made a part hereof and marked Exhibit 'A'. Said rendition of the properties here involved, as aforesaid, constituted an assessed value of $16,044,710.00, which rendition was accepted by the Assessor-Collector of Montgomery County, Texas, without change, and as a proper rendition of plaintiff's properties.
'On this plaintiff's original rendition, which was accepted by the Assessor-Collector of Montgomery County, was included and inventoried various properties other than oil and gas producing properties and upon which plaintiff has paid taxes on a total value of $668,080.00, amounting in taxes to the sum of $11,998.55, which taxes were accepted by the Tax Assessor-Collector, and his receipt issued therefor to the plaintiff on the 26th day of January, 1951, and said properties are not involved in this litigation and are not oil and gas producing properties.
'Some time prior to the time when plaintiff made and filed its rendition of its properties in said county, the Commissioners' Court of Montgomery County employed the firm of Pritchard and Abbott to make appraisals of oil properties on the county tax rolls. On or about September 5, 1950, said Commissioners' Court, as constituted for the year 1950, met as a Board of Equalization for the announced purpose of equalizing assessments of oil and gas properties on the Montgomery County tax rolls. Said Board, notwithstanding the plain, unambiguous requirements of the statutes governing the Boards of Equalization, directed the Assessor-Collector to produce only those portions of the tax rolls and tax renditions containing assessments of oil and gas properties and summoned only the owners of such properties to appear before said Board of Equalization. On the date last above mentioned, to-wit, September 5, 1950, or a few days prior thereto, said Board of Equalization advised John L. Abbott, of the firm of Pritchard and Abbott, that the County required an amount on the oil and gas interests equal to the total for said valuations on said oil and gas interests for the year 1949, in order that said County might obtain a total tax roll of $70,000,000.00. At the same time, the Board of Equalization advised said John L. Abbott that it would be agreeable with said Board, if accepted by the oil and gas interests on the day set for the hearing, that the County would be willing to deduct from the oil and gas interests and the other valuations of the County on other rolls exceeded the sum of $70,000,000.00. Whereupon, said defendant's appraisers advised the Board of Equalization that such figure would require the tentative values presented on their 1949 schedule to be raised by 5% and proceeded to rework said schedule to provide a raise of 5% from their tentative values which would produce the Board of Equalization's desired total and allow an adequate amount for individual adjustments and still produce a total value of all the rolls in Montgomery County of $70,000,000.00. On or about the same time, John L. Abbott, of the firm of Pritchard and Abbott, advised said Board of Equalization that said increased schedule would result in placing an assessed value on the oil and gas interests of from 30 to 35% of its reasonable cash market value or intrinsic value, and in his opinion would be one-third or 33 1/3% of the total fair cash market value of all the oil and gas interests in Montgomery County, Texas. That on said 5th day of September, 1950, in order to obtain said $70,000,000.00 total assessment for the County, the Board proceeded to raise the rendered value of said oil properties, including this plaintiff's properties, to a value necessary to obtain said $70,000,000.00 total valuation for the County for the year 1950. Such action of the Board resulted in placing the assessed valuation of this plaintiff's properties involved herein on the tax rolls at not less than 33 1/3% of its market value, as shown by the undisputed and uncontradicted testimony before the Board on the day of the hearing before the Board of Equalization, which was the only day this plaintiff was notified to appear before said Board and show cause why its rendered vaues should not be raised. That the Board of Equalization arbitrarily and unlawfully following out its announced scheme of obtaining a total of $70,000,000.00 on the tax rolls of Montgomery County, and maintaining the local assessments on the rolls at from 10 to 15% of their fair market value, arbitrarily, unlawfully and in direct violation of the constitution and laws of the state of Texas governing the actions of Boards of Equalization, proceeded to raise this plaintiff's properties involved herein from a rendered value of $16,044,710.00 to $22,509,870.00 or an arbitrary increase of $6,465,160.00, although said rendered values aggregating $16,044,710.00 represented, according to the undisputed testimony before the Board, an assessment at between 20 and 25% of the fair market value of such properties, while the Board of Equalization well knew that all local properties were on the tax rolls at an assessed value of 10 to 15% of its fair market value.
'Notwithstanding that Article 7206 of the Revised Civil Statutes of Texas provides 'Each Commissioners' Court shall convene and sit as a Board of Equalization on the Second Monday in May of each year, or as soon thereafter as practicable before the first day of June, to receive all the assessment lists or books of the Assessors of their counties for inspection, correction or equalization and approval,' and said article further provides that 'they shall cause the Assessor to bring before them at such meeting all said assessment lists, books, etc., for inspection, and see that every person has rendered his property at a fair market value * * *,' and notwithstanding the further fact that at said hearing on September 5, 1950, at least one of the members of the Board of Equalization stated in open hearing that the local rolls were out of line as to percentage of value and should be reviewed by the Board and suggested a review by the Board, after the uncontradicted testimony and statements made at the hearing charging that the local properties were on the rolls at not more than 10 to 15% of their fair market values, nevertheless said Board consistently continued to refuse to follow the mandates of the statutes to review said rolls and thus made no efforts to equalize said rolls and obtain equality and uniformity of taxation, although this plaintiff charges that each member of said Board knew and had knowledge of the inequality of percentage of assessments existing between the oil and gas interests and the local rolls and of the gross discrimination against the owners of mineral interests.
'This defendant further alleges that after said uncontradicted and unimpeached testimony presented before said Board at the hearing on September 5, 1950, the Board, in furtherance of its scheme to carry out its desire to obtain the total of $70,000,000.00 tax values in said county by increasing only the oil and gas interests and maintaining the local assessments in a favorable position, and as a subterfuge to try to legalize their unauthorized, arbitrary and unlawful acts, and still refusing to review the tax rolls themselves, now state that they authorized and directed the Tax Assessor-Collector to review such rolls and make recommendations where none had previously bee made, and in furtherance of said scheme to try to legalize their unauthorized procedure, approved a list of approximately 84 tax payers whose renditions were less than 10% and whose rendered values were raised to an assessed value of approximately 10% of their reasonable cash market value, in a feeble attempt to show some consideration of and compliance with the unambiguous mandates of the statutes requiring them to review all the rolls and lists of the Tax Assessor.
'Plaintiff further alleges that on or about September 5, 1950, when said Commissioners' Court, sitting as a Board of Equalization, was having its purported hearings on equalization of oil and gas properties, plaintiff was represented by its duly authorized agent who protested orally against the above described illegal section on the part of the Board of Equalization and the arbitrary and unlawful increase on one class of property while the assessments on all other classes of property were...
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...some arbitrary rule the taxpayer must show substantial injury. One of the latest cases on the subject is Montgomery County v. Humble Oil & Ref'g Co., Tex.Civ.App., 245 S.W.2d 326, 335. In that case proof on the trial showed, and the trial court found, that whereas the Board of Equalization ......
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