The citizens of Fort Stockton have expressed concern regarding the
Pecos County Appraisal District’s assessments within the Fort
Stockton Independent School District since 2010, but some apparently
shy away from being publicly acknowledged for their concern.
In August of 2016, FSISD filed suit against SandRidge Energy, Inc. and
the Pecos County Appraisal District for $500 million in property
taxes, saying the Appraisal District had omitted property from the
appraisal rolls for the tax years 2010 to 2015. The suit was
effectively dismissed in United States Bankruptcy Court for the
Southern District of Texas on Feb. 3 of 2017. Chief United States
Bankruptcy Judge, David R. Jones, dismissed the case, stating, “…I
can’t read the complaint and create a plausible claim of fraud based
on what’s in the pleading, so I would dismiss the complaint…”.
Just a little background,” said Calderon, “FSISD and their attorneys
claimed that there was 500 million in tax dollars that we missed. And
it started at 500 million and they said, ‘Well, maybe it’s 50
million’, then they went down to 10 million, and now they’re trying to
sue my mineral appraisers and they’ll call it even.”
In March of this year, following the dismissal of the case, the
Pioneer reported that PCAD Chief Appraiser Sam Calderon III received
an anonymous letter to his home address regarding this issue.
Another anonymous letter has begun to circulate, and a number of
citizens and officials, including the Pioneer, have received copies.
The Pioneer received a typed page from the unnamed sender, and a copy
of a letter from lawyers from Curtis/Castillo to Chief Appraiser
Calderon, dated June 16, 2017, and the subject line says, “Final
demand by the Fort Stockton Independent School District.” The letter
details that unless the Appraisal District adds the omitted property
to the appraisal rolls for 2017 by a certain date, they will pursue
Calderon explained that in February, the office went to federal court
in Houston. He said the judge presiding over the trial claimed he
didn’t see any fraud, and that the judge thought there were local
remedies that could resolve this issue. The judge stated that he saw
no case for wrongdoing and dismissed the plea.
“We’ve asked Curtis/Castillo to give us information, specifics on the
properties that they believe we missed,” Calderon said. “They’ve
continued to feel that we’ve missed something, but everything they
bring to the table has either already been accounted for or we’ve
Calderon noted that the attorneys gave them a list of taxable
SandRidge properties that were allegedly omitted by the Pecos County
Appraisal District in 2015. Stephen Campbell, President of Pickett &
Company, Inc., an auditing firm, reviewed all omitted properties as
presented by the attorneys of FSISD. Out of almost 830 properties
listed, none were omitted; in fact, a large portion of the properties
listed by FSISD’s attorneys weren’t even located in FSISD, but in
Buena Vista or Iraan/Sheffield school districts.
Calderon also said that bi-annually, the Appraisal District brings in
the Texas Comptroller for a property value study, where the Appraisal
District’s information is audited. Since 2010, three total studies
have been completed with no issues.
“They come in and audit our values,” Calderon said. “In other words,
what they do is pick random samples, test the values, and do their own
appraisal on it. Then they compare their appraisal to ours.”
Part of the state comptroller’s duties ensure all appraisal districts
assess property correctly.
Calderon shook his head, “We haven’t had any problems with our values.
That’s what we’ve been telling the attorneys. For anything to be
wrong, it would have to have gone over the Comptroller, the Railroad
Commission, and us three times.”
While the Appraisal District and Calderon have this information on
hand and are willing to explain it freely, Calderon stated that
FSISD’s attorneys have prohibited the District from meeting with the
“This is because of possible litigation between them and our mineral
appraisers for our mineral values, which hasn’t gone anywhere. The
attorneys don’t seem to want to discuss it in open session. They don’t
want us to go and give a presentation to the school board. They don’t
seem to want to understand the answers we are giving them.”