Canutillo ISD to repay more than $1 million in collected property taxes from Outlet Shoppes

EL PASO, Texas - Recent litigation against the Central Appraisal District by the Outlet Shoppes of El Paso has left the Canutillo Independent School District paying back more than a million dollars.

The lawsuit between the Outlet Shoppes and the Central Appraisal District was settled in March, with the CAD settling on a more than 30-percent reduction in the appraised value of the Outlet Shoppes, leaving CISD with no choice but to repay the already collected taxes from its budget.

"The impact, the amount of impact, was surprising to us," said Martha Aguirre, CISD's executive director of financial services, who has been left dealing with a huge hole in the district's budget. "(The lawsuit) went on for three years and so it just pulls us back a little."

The CAD appraised the Outlet Shoppes at $85 million in 2011, 2012 and 2013. After litigation, that appraisal was lowered to $57 million for all three years, a difference of 28 million dollars. That change in valuation has left the CISD in a tough spot, having to repay more than a million dollars. On Friday, the district has to make a bulk payment of more than $724,000.

"It's a lot of money," Aguirre said. "When we look at personnel, you're looking at an employee increase of about two percent that absolutely is not going to be considered an option."

The CAD's chief appraiser, Dinah Kilgore, agreed the district was put in a tough spot. But she said it's unavoidable on her end.

"We did this with standard appraisal practices, looking at outlet malls not only in the state of Texas, but kind of standard appraisal practices found throughout the country," Kilgore said. "The problem is with the appraisal districts throughout the state of Texas, property owners do not have to give an information. I would advocate, if we had the numbers right up front, you would see a lot less protests going on. You would have a lot less of that value that would still be hanging in the air when the entities are setting their rates."

Kilgore went on to say she lets taxing entities know ahead of time when appraisals are in litigation so they can budget appropriately.

Greater El Paso Chamber of Commerce President Richard Dayoub, who is offering recommendations for change at the CAD, called this is another example of why the appraisal system needs to be revamped. He pointed out that El Paso Independent School District was in a similar situation this year, having to refund nearly $7 million in already collected taxes.

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