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Gregg tax assessor dropped from Kilgore ISD lawsuit

By Glenn Evans
Feb. 10, 2017 at 11:42 p.m.

Kirk Shields

The Gregg County taxman has been dismissed from a lawsuit brought by Kilgore ISD property owners who say the school district improperly eliminated their homestead exemption during last year's tax season.

Plaintiffs Sheila Anderson and Darlene and John Claude Axberg sued the district in the fall after paying the full property tax bills on their two homes. Their case naming the school district and its trustees continues to make its way to trial in the Gregg County Court at Law No. 2 in Longview.

The plaintiffs also named Gregg County Tax Assessor/Collector Kirk Shields as a defendant, apparently because his office collects Kilgore ISD's annual tax payments. The elected official claimed in his successful motion for non-suit that his office simply followed its contractual obligation to collect what the district told him to collect.

"That summarizes it pretty well," Shields said Friday, days after the 12th Court of Appeals freed him from the legal action. "We never had any involvement. I was never involved in the (homestead exemption) decision-making process whatsoever. It's just a relief to get this done."

The lawsuit arises from the school board's June 2015 decision to remove the optional 20 percent homestead exemption it had offered homeowners for decades. A new school reform law, which included locking in those optional exemptions for five years, took effect the following September.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who joined the plaintiffs in suing Kilgore ISD, declared near the end of 2015 that districts that removed the optional tax break were out of line and must reinstate them.

Kilgore ISD argues Paxton's order was unconstitutionally retroactive. The homeowners are asking the court to reimburse that portion of their tax payment represented by the exemption they say they were wrongly denied.

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