By Sarah Snyder
Alon Refinery is Howard County's biggest taxpayer, and right now, they're in a fight with county appraisers about how much they're worth.
"We want to make sure our I's are dotted and our T's are crossed," Howard County Judge Mark Barr, said.
Last year, Big Spring's Alon Refinery was valued at $320 million. The refinery says they should only have to pay taxes on half of that, and they're willing to fight it out in court. In the meantime, other taxpayers will pick-up the tab.
"What we've done is cover our bases, and make sure the county has enough money to operate next year, we went over the rollback rate which was 49 cents, to put it in round numbers, we went over that a nickel, and that will make up the difference," Barr said.
For now, Alon has agreed to pay taxes on $80 million until the case is settled, but county leaders say, that's not enough.
"The reason we're asking 8% is based mostly on fuel," Judge Barr said. "It doubled last year."
And taxpayers aren't the only ones that are hurting.
It affects Big Spring Independent School District, it affects Howard County, and it affects Howard College," Barr said. "Those are the three main entities that Alon affects."
Judge Barr says the tax rate all depends on how the court case turn out.
"We don't know what to expect from the court," he said. "Their decision could be appealed, but there's just a lot of unknown factors out there."
If the county wins, officials will lower the tax rate. But if Alon wins, then taxpayers and schools will soak up the extra, at a five cent rate.
"That is going to leave us quite a bit short," Barr said. "Because they are about eighteen percent of our tax base, which is a huge portion for one entity."
Alon's trial date is set for August 18th, and the county has also set up public hearings for September 8th and 15th.