Chevron, assessor reach tentative deal to settle Richmond refinery property tax battles
By Robert Rogers
Contra Costa Times
Posted: 09/16/2013 02:19:09 PM PDT | Updated: about 17 hours ago
MARTINEZ -- An agreement to settle nearly a decade of property tax litigation between Chevron's Richmond refinery and local governments will come before Contra Costa County supervisors Tuesday.
County Assessor Gus Kramer said Monday the deal hammered out with the energy giant should get strong support.
"It won't cost the public anything," Kramer said of the deal. "It saves the taxpayers money in the long run and saves the costs of ongoing legal fees."
Asked whether the deal would reduce the likelihood of future litigation, Kramer said, "I hope so."
The proposal set to come to the board Tuesday follows hundreds of hours of negotiations over the past year between the Assessor's Office and top Chevron officials, Kramer said.
Chevron spokeswoman Melissa Ritchie released a statement Monday saying the proposed agreement would eliminate the "tax dispute for the years 2004-2012" between the Assessor's Office and the Richmond refinery.
"As part of the proposed agreement, (Chevron) will waive its claims to hundreds of millions of dollars in tax refunds and agree not to pursue its past tax appeals," Ritchie said.
Chevron last year filed a court challenge to a Contra Costa County property tax appeals board decision that found the Richmond refinery was under-assessed by as much as $27 million in 2007-09. Chevron also sued over the Contra Costa Assessment Appeals Board's 2004-2006 decision.
The refinery had sought a $73 million tax refund for that period but was awarded $17 million. The county, cities and special districts were on the hook to repay money that most already had spent on local services. Chevron also appealed its 2010-2012 refinery fair-market values as set by Kramer.
Under the terms of the proposed agreement, the taxable value of Chevron's Richmond refinery in 2012 would be reduced from $3.87 billion to $3.28 billion, but the energy giant would not collect the $8 million in taxes it overpaid that year, according to a county staff report. In exchange, Chevron and the Assessor's Office would annually meet and confer regarding the value of the Richmond refinery, as was the custom before 2004.
Kramer described the proposed settlement Monday as "revenue neutral" and an important step to wipe out a host of expensive and risky legal challenges mounted by Chevron.
"We've butted heads for a long time, and we're hoping to make peace here," Kramer said. "There are gains and losses on both sides."
Richmond Councilman Nat Bates welcomed the news Monday. Bates said it's crucial to have a deal whereby the city doesn't have to pay any money back to its biggest taxpayer.
"As I understand it, the city won't have to pay back any money, so I'm satisfied," Bates said.
Final resolution of the tax dispute will require approval from Chevron, Kramer, the Board of Supervisors, Richmond and the Assessment Appeals Board, according to a county news release.
"The purpose of the settlement is to give the assessor and Chevron the opportunity to avoid the time and expense involved in litigating these property tax appeals," the news release read.
Contact Robert Rogers at 510-262-2726 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at Twitter.com/roberthrogers.
if you go
· What: Contra Costa County board of supervisors meeting
· When: 9 a.m. Tuesday
· Where: Board chamber room 107, Administration Building, 651 Pine St., Martinez