Dave Rogers

For The Record

Bridge City Independent School District Monday night joined neighbor West Orange-Cove in accepting an application for Appraised Value Limitation for a proposed $6 billion Chevron Phillips Chemical ethylene plant.

“Chevron Phillips has been a part of the community for six decades and if this proposal goes through, we hope to be here through another six decades,” said Chaney Moore, real estate and property tax manager for the company, referring to the current CPC polyethylene plant on Chemical Row that opened in 1955.

But Moore reminded members of the press after the meeting that Orange is one of several Gulf Coast sites being considered for the plant.

It’s a deal that will make Bridge City a “property rich” district, but the terms of the “Chapter 313 agreement,” basically the same deal WOC agreed to last week, are expected to lower tax payments for BCISD homeowners.

“I think their total tax base is $1 billion now. This is going to [make it] be closer to $4 billion,” said attorney Sara Leon of Austin.

She explained that once the ethylene plant goes on line, which could be as early as 2024, the agreement would limit BCISD to charging the plant a maintenance and operations (M&O) tax for the value of $20 million for a 10-year period.

Chevron Phillips would pay full value for interest and sinking (I&S) tax to each school district (which is projected to be $2.8 billion per district, a 50 percent split of the total project’s value).

The I&S tax fund is for paying district debt. That money is exempt from “recapture” by the state of Texas, Leon said.

To make sure the school districts aren’t negatively affected financially, the agreement includes a provision for the schools and the chemical company to negotiate payments by Chevron Phillips up to $100 dollars per student per year (about $300,000 for BC, $250,000 for WOC).

Leon said Chevron Phillips would make other payments to the districts, if required, that would reimburse them for dealing with an influx of students because of plant construction and operation.

“Should construction force you to hire a number of new teachers and pay for portable buildings, that is something that can be factored for in the negotiations,” Leon said. “The crux of the agreement includes terms to allow the district to receive the same amount of revenue as you would have received if you had not granted the application.”

Moore said that while the application showed only 10 full-time jobs for the plant that was only a place-holder, the minimum number to apply for a 313.

“It’s likely to be hundreds of jobs,” he said. “There’s just no benefit to putting that on the application.”

According to Scott Overton, Orange County chief appraiser, Bridge City ISD had $1.08 billion in total taxable values in its borders in 2018, with the Entergy power plant its most valued.

West Orange-Cove, a long-time property rich district with boundaries including the Chemical Row plants, had total taxable 2018 values of $1.8 billion.

Overton said if the Chevron Phillips plant does come to Orange County, that it could represent as much total value as all other Chemical Row industrials combined.

Todd Lintzen, BC superintendent, and Gina Mannino, assistant superintendent, presented to board members and parents the State of the District Report and the Texas Academic Performance Report.

“We expect our students to continue to excel academically,” Lintzen said.

“We have high expectations for our academic achievement. We’re going to maintain our financial stability. We will continue to enhance our district and continue to attract top students.”

The full reports, available on the BCISD web site, showed that among the 22 ways to assess STAAR subject mastery tests given last year to students in Grade 3 through high school, BC students failed to beat the state average in earning a Meets Standard rating.

Also, only in nine of the 22 did BC students fail to beat the state’s average at the Masters level.

BCISD did not receive an A-F rating because of students being displaced and otherwise affected by Tropical Storm Harvey.

But all three BC campuses (elementary and intermediate were combined for rating purposes) were rated “Met Standard” and BC High School earned Academic Achievement in math and social studies.

Lintzen, in his review of building projects, reported that Bridge City’s baseball and softball fields might receive their artificial turf covering by the end of the week.

“This week, we’re hoping for green all over,” he said.

The superintendent also reiterated a concern in recent years, the growth of a district that has topped 3,000 students and the need to plan for more classrooms and teachers.

“That was from the demographic report we had conducted last spring,” Lintzen said, “and it does not have anything to do with that potential growth tied to the Chevron plant.

“So that’s going to be a challenge, but we’re looking forward to meeting those challenges.”