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Gee whiz. That means I'd better be careful what I write - or draw or
record. Even for my own amusement. And even if my computer data is
Since our computers are networked, and we don't use passwords, anyone
who sits down at one of our terminals can access information in everyone
else's file. Not everyone knows this, but even information that has been
deleted may still be around in what is called the Done: file. So if I
want to print out something personal and then delete it from my file so
nobody else can read it, I had better delete it from the Done: file as
well. I have read some interesting stuff on that file that the author
thought had been sent out into the electricity with the "delete" key.
My husband hates my column because I write about whatever is on my mind
at the moment. "I don't read her column," he told a co-worker. "She
doesn't have any secrets."
Well, when you lead a clean life you don't have to have secrets, I told
him. Anyway, when this life is over, everything I have ever said or done
will be replayed on the big screen in the sky. Knowing a snoopy computer
may be able to access it now is just a reminder that we should all be
careful what we say and do, for it will all be revealed in the end time.
No, my record is not clean. But from here on in, I hope to make
it as clean as possible, with God's help.
In the meantime, while Netscape is looking for the glitch in their
software that can penetrate even a security firewall to gain access to
forbidden information, I think I will hook up to the Internet and see
how many hard disks I can tap into. What would you give me for the
inside scoop on your worst enemy?
"Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in his ways." Psalm 128:1,
Editor's Note: Peggy McCracken is an Enterprise writer and website manager whose column appears each Tuesday.
I read with interest your article in the May 15 issue of The Van Horn
Advocate, as well as an earlier Feb. 13 story, on the ongoing dispute
between the Culberson County Appraisal District and Freeport Resource
Partners (FRP) over the value of FRP's sulphur mine and other assets in
the county. This is an important issue to the citizens of Van Horn and
Culberson County and you are providing a public service by covering the
story in your newspaper. I hope you will also see fit to publish this
letter about the dispute.
FRP purchased the mine, which has been in operation for 28 years, and
other property in Culberson County in conjunction with its purchase of
two permitted sulphur storage facilities in Galveston and Tampa, Fla.,
358 railcars, two barges, and various intangible assets from Pennzoil
Jan. 3, 1995. Shortly thereafter, FRP hired the highly respected public
accounting firm of Deloitte & Touche to conduct a fair market value
appraisal of the acquired assets. That appraisal was necessitated by
financial accounting and federal income tax reporting requirements, and
also served to provide a fair market value analysis for property tax
Deloitte & Touche valued FRP's mine and other property in Culberson
County at approximately $15 million as of Jan. 1, 1995. The Culberson
County Appraisal District, however, valued the mine at $38 million as of
Jan. 1, 1995 and then increased their valuation to $51 million for 1996,
despite the fact that the price of sulphur was well below the price
Deloitee & Touche projected in appraising the mine, a fact that would
indicate a reduction rather than an increase in value. The Culberson
County appraisal Review Board heard FRP's protests concerning the
district's valuation and upheld the district's valuations. This dispute
is currently pending resolution in Culberson County District Court.
For the 1995 tax year, FRP was assessed property tax of $1,030,659. FRP
paid the full assessment, although we believe we owe much less, because
the law then required property taxpayers challenging an order of an
appraisal review board to pay the greater of the amount not in dispute
or the amount assessed. In June 1996, the Texas Supreme Court determined
that requiring taxpayers who challenge property tax assessments to pay
the full assessment was a violation of a taxpayer's constitutional right
to open courts. As a result, taxpayers who challenge property tax
assessments are only required to pay the amount of taxes they do not
dispute in order to maintain their challenge. This is the law, not "a
legal loophole." In fact, this is the way the property tax system worked
in Texas until 1979. As a result, for the 1996 tax year, FRP paid
$331,432, the undisputed portion of the assessed $1,227,070.
We have been aware of and concerned about the difficulties this
situation poses for Culberson County, the Culberson Hospital District
and the Culberson County-Allamoore Independent School District. Because
of that concern, we long ago offered to work with the county, the school
district and the hospital district to avoid a sudden decrease in tax
revenue to those entities by transitioning to the reduced market value,
so long as the terms of the transition are reasonable. We recently
renewed that effort.
However, just as the needs of the county, the school district and the
hospital district for adequate tax revenues are legitimate, so is FRP's
right to a fair valuation of its property. Any homeowner, landowner or
business owner in Culberson County - upon learning that their property
was valued for tax purposes at more than three times its actual value,
as our was in 1996 - would take the steps we have taken. As we must
because of economic realities, we are simply asserting our rights under
We believe that open discussion of the different perspectives of the
parties involved would help everyone to better evaluate this dispute
and, hopefully, get it resolved. We have offered to meet with county,
hospital district and school district officials and we make that offer
Hopefully, by working together and listening to one another, we can ease
our way through this difficult time. In the meantime, though, I ask you
with all respect to consider the unfairness of treating this issue as
you did in last Thursday's headline, which read, "We're out of
money!...Because Freeport didn't pay all their taxes."
The $331,432 we paid in taxes in 1996, though less than what the
appraisal district wanted us to pay, is what we believe to be our full
tax burden and is a very substantial contribution to the budgets of the
taxing entities and the services they provide for the citizens of
Vice President and General Manager
Mac McKinnon, Publisher
Division of Buckner News Alliance, Inc.
324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
Phone 915-445-5475, FAX 915-445-4321
Associated Press text, photo, graphic, audio and/or video material shall not be published, broadcast, rewritten for broadcast or publication or redistributed directly or indirectly in any medium. Neither these AP Materials nor any portion thereof may be stored in a computer except for personal and non-commercial use. The AP will not be held liable for any delays, inaccuracies, errors or omissions therefrom or in the transmission or delivery of all or any part thereof or for any damages arising from any of the foregoing.
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