The Houston City Council is slated to vote Wednesday on whether to allow the only refinery still in Houston city limits to pretend that it's somewhere else entirely, tax-wise. Specifically, Valero Energy wants to remove 168 acres of the refinery's roughly 190-acre site to an industrial district (the refinery can't remove the other acres because that's more than 2,500 feet from the Houston Ship Channel so the acres have to be counted as part of Houston by state law.)
This may all sound like a bunch of pointless property line limbo but of course it's all about the money behind it. The San Antonio-based Valero has never shied away from doing what's necessary to save a few (or a few million) dollars, even though that has meant suing HISD and other school districts to be allowed to use a tax break loophole that would have cut the districts off from millions in funds.
In this case, becoming an industrial district will have Valero paying about $37.7 million in fees under a 15-year deal, saving the company somewhere between $10 million and $18 million in city property taxes, the Houston Chronicle reports. The city is claiming that they won't be losing any money because Houston has already hit a property tax cap so they'll collect the money whether it comes from Valero or the other tax payers in Manchester. Plus the city won't have to provide city services once the refinery becomes it's own cozy little industrial district.
After deferring the vote last week, the city council is supposed to make a decision on the issue tomorrow. If they approve the deal this won't even be the first sweet deal Valero has scored this year: The company was already approved, the Chron reports, first by the city and then by Gov. Rick Perry, to hit up subsidies under the Texas Enterprise Zone, whereby the refinery commits to expansion and gets a more than $1 million state tax rebate. So yeah, based on their history of finagling tax breaks -- Valero is arguing that they should get this one as a reward for expanding here and not at the Louisiana refinery -- we're betting they'll get this one, too.