Lawsuit lowers motel appraisal
Matul Patel, who filed a lawsuit against the Milam County Appraisal District (MCAD) almost exactly one year ago, has succeeded in reducing the 2008 tax bill on the Best Western Rockdale Inn.
Patel, general manager of the motel, located on US 77 just north of the US 79 intersection, told The Reporter on Monday he is expecting a $13,000 check as an out-of-court settlement with the appraisal district.
“The MCAD agreed to drop the 2008 appraisal of the motel from $1.6 million to $1 million,” Patel said.
That represents a 37.5 percent appraisal reduction.
“Even with attorney fees, we’re going to come out ahead by more than $9,000,” he said.
Method change In 2009, appraisal increases of 300 and 1,000 percent triggered the ire of several Rockdale motel owners.
But by t he t ime t he 2009 appraisals hit, Patel had already filed the suit over the 2008 value.
“ That’s the year we really got hit,” he said. “In 2007 we paid $18,000 in taxes. When we prepared for the next year we knew there was going to be a big increase and I thought I was prepared for it. I budgeted $25,000.”
That year’s tax bill was $38,000, according to Patel.
Chief Appraiser Pat Moraw noted the MCAD used an “incomebased appraisal” option which allows appraisers to use motel income over a past year, instead of the condition of the physical plant, to calculate taxable value.
She strongly defends the practice as “the only method where there’s enough documentation to support an appraisal figure.”
Patel sent representat ives through the tax protest hearing process with which many Milam residents are familiar.
“They (the MCAD) didn’t seem very interested in what we had to say,” he said.
Patel then filed his lawsuit in 20th District Court and began waiting out the long legal process.
There were back and forth responses by each set of attorneys for most of the year.
“Then in December my attorneys were notified the MCAD was ready to settle out of court,” he said.
“The $13,000 figure was agreed to,” Patel said. “I talked to the MCAD on Friday and they said they were preparing the paperwork.
“The next thing to happen should be to get a check in the mail,” he said.
Last spring’s appraisal increases generated an outcry among Rockdale motel owners.
One of them, Joan Ratliff of the Rainbow Courts, was elected to the MCAD board of directors last fall with votes of South Milam taxing jurisdictions.
Motel owners pointed out the income-based method, used figures from a time period when the Rockdale motel business was booming from Sandow 5 construction workers.
There’s another boom under way now with about 1,200 workers installing sophisticated pollution control at Sandow Power Plant Unit 4.
Patel isn’t surprised at the way his lawsuit ended up.
“We’ve heard that appraisal districts will usually settle, that if you’re fair in what you ask for, and have a good case like we did, they will make an offer before it actually goes to trial,” he said.
“We’re pleased at the way it came out,” Patel said,