KILGORE — The next, and possibly final, phase of a yearslong lawsuit against Kilgore ISD will play out where it began: in Gregg County Court at Law No. 2.
In an email last week, Kilgore ISD Superintendent Andy Baker confirmed the case has been sent back to the “local court” in Gregg County. Baker said he does not have information on when further court proceedings might occur.
A mandate issued by the state Nov. 8 confirms the 6th Court of Appeals remanded the case to the trial court, Gregg County Court at Law No. 2, for further proceedings.
The 6th Court of Appeals mandated in October 2017 that Gregg County Judge Vincent Dulweber hand down an amended judgment in favor of the plaintiffs.
“As stated in the court’s opinion of this date, we find reversible error in the judgment of the court below. Therefore, we reverse the trial court’s order in part, to the extent that it refused to dismiss the ultra vires claims, and render judgment dismissing those claims, but we otherwise affirm the trial court’s actions and remand the remainder of this lawsuit for further proceedings consistent with this opinion,” the mandate read.
The claim of “ultra vires” was asserted by the plaintiffs, accusing the Kilgore ISD board of acting beyond the scope of its power in opting to repeal a local option homestead exemption in 2015. The 6th Court of Appeals dismissed that part of the claim but upheld the remainder of the judgment.
On Sept. 16, the school district appealed the decision to the Texas Supreme Court by filing a motion for a rehearing. However, it was denied Oct. 18.
The most recent mandate on Nov. 8, which is posted on the Texas Judicial Branch’s website at www.txcourts.gov , affirms the 6th Court’s findings.
“As stated in the Court’s opinion of this date, we find there was partial error in the judgment of the court below (Gregg County Court at Law No. 2). Therefore, we affirm the trial court’s final judgment for the state insofar as it declared (1) that Section 11.13(n-1) of the Texas Tax Code [SB-1’s repeal prohibition] (a) is constitutional, and (b) prohibits school districts from repealing or reducing the amount of a local option homestead exemption that was adopted for the 2014 tax year at any time between January 1, 2015, and December 31, 2019, and (2) that the repeal and any reduction by the Kilgore Independent School District of the local option homestead exemption that it adopted for the 2014 tax year violates Section 11.13(n1) of the Texas Tax Code [SB-1’s repeal prohibition] and, therefore, has no effect and is void as a matter of law.
“In all other respects, we reverse the trial court’s judgment. We remand this case to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.”
The mandate also ordered Kilgore ISD to pay 25% of the appeal costs and for the suit’s plaintiffs — Darlene Axberg, John Claude Axberg and Sheila Anderson — to pay 75% of all costs of appeal. This was a change from previous rulings, which ordered the costs of appeal to be split 50/50.