Kilgore ISD school board trustees consulted with the school’s attorney Monday in closed session for an update on litigation in the case Axberg v. Kilgore ISD.
The meeting was held in accordance with Section 551.071 of Texas Government Code, which allows a governmental body to conduct a private consultation with its attorney to seek advice about pending or contemplated litigation.
No action was taken by trustees following executive session, during which they consulted with their attorney for approximately one hour. They discussed the case amongst themselves for approximately 45 minutes following a short recess after the attorney left.
Axberg v. Kilgore ISD is a lawsuit filed against the district in Sept. 2016 in Gregg County Court at Law No. 2 by John Claude Axberg, Darlene Axberg and Sheila Anderson. The plaintiffs are residents of KISD’s tax district and filed suit after the district rescinded a Local Option Homestead Exemption, which allows some property owners to exempt part of their property value from tax assessments.
KISD rescinded their 20-percent LOHE, which they had voluntarily maintained for decades, in May 2015 following the legislature’s introduction of a constitutional amendment which mandated Texas school districts could not remove or reduce their LOHEs from the amount set for the 2014 tax year through the 2019 tax year. The amendment also mandated an increase in the amount of taxable property covered by the exemption.
At the time, the board said they rescinded the LOHE to retain local control of the tax exemption they had offered to residents of KISD’s tax district for years, without being locked into a state-mandated rate until 2019.
20 Texas school districts made a similar decision and repealed their LOHEs around the same time as KISD.
Voters didn’t approve the constitutional amendment until Nov. 2015 and KISD repealed their LOHE in the interim.
In Dec. 2017, Gregg County Judge Vincent Dulweber ruled for the plaintiffs and KISD promptly appealed. In Feb. 2018, Dulweber handed down an amended judgment in favor of the plaintiffs.
In Feb. 2019, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton distributed a press release criticizing Texas school districts for repealing LOHEs and the 6th District Court of Appeals in Texarkana ruled Texas ISDs had no right to repeal or reduce their exemptions.
KISD has accrued over $4 million in taxes as a result of the repealed exemption since 2015, which it has placed into a separate account to remain untouched until the litigation has taken its full course and a final decision has been reached.
Following the meeting, board president Reggie Henson said the board could not legally discuss pending litigation but said more information is on the horizon.
“It’s all confidential,” Henson said.
“We’re just talking about the homestead exemption and what is our next step. We will have a statement.”