Court of Appeals of Texas, Thirteenth District, Corpus Christi-Edinburg
appeal from the 58th District Court of Jefferson County,
Justices Benavides, Hinojosa, and Perkes
M. BENAVIDES, Justice
College Retail LLC appeals the dismissal of its ad valorem
tax challenge against Jefferson Central Appraisal District
(JCAD), appellee. By its single issue, College Retail argues
that the trial court erred by granting the JCAD's plea to
the jurisdiction. We reverse and remand.
Retail owns real property in Jefferson County in which it
leases space to Conn's Home Plus. The JCAD values
property in Jefferson County for tax purposes. On May 18,
2017, College Retail filed a protest of its 2017 property
taxes. Conn's also filed a protest dated May 31, 2017,
and filed an affidavit to be used at the Appraisal Review
Board (ARB) scheduled for July 6, 2017. The JCAD advised
College Retail and Conn's that Conn's affidavit could
not be used at the hearing unless College Retail withdrew its
protest. See Tex. Tax. Code Ann. § 41.413(b).
College Retail withdrew its protest on June 24, 2017.
Conn's agent appeared at the protest hearing. The Notice
of Determination of Protest and Order Determining Protest is
dated July 25, 2017, and reflects no change in value.
Retail filed suit in district court in Jefferson County on
September 17, 2017, seeking a reduction in the assessed value
of its property. It complained that the valuation was over
market and unequal. Its original petition included a copy of
the ARB determination which identified the property street
address, the property account number, the tax year at issue,
the legal description of the property, the case number, the
property ID number, and reproduced the notice of final order
within the petition. The JCAD filed a plea to the
jurisdiction and a general denial in response. After some
discovery, College Retail filed its first amended petition as
College Retail LLC, as the property owner and for its tenant,
Conn's. The JCAD responded. The JCAD's plea to the
jurisdiction challenged the trial court's power to hear
College Retail's appeal on the ground that College Retail
failed to exhaust its administrative remedies. The trial
court heard the plea to the jurisdiction on February 14,
2018, and dismissed College Retail's suit with prejudice.
This appeal followed.
Plea to the Jurisdiction
Retail's sole issue on appeal is that the trial court
erroneously granted the plea to the jurisdiction. It argues
that the purposes of administrative exhaustion were fulfilled
here because the ARB heard and rejected challenges to the
valuation of the property on the grounds of over market and
unequal valuation, the grounds the owner complains of in this
Standard of Review and Applicable Law
Texas Tax Code provides detailed administrative procedures
for those who contest their property taxes. See Tex.
Tax Code Ann. §§ 41.01-.71; Cameron Appraisal
Dist. v. Rourk, 194 S.W.3d 501, 502 (Tex. 2006); see
also Jefferson County Appraisal Dist. v. Morgan, No.
2012 WL 403861, 2012 WL 403861, at *4 (Tex. App.-Beaumont
Feb. 9, 2012, no pet.) (mem. op.). Administrative decisions
are final if not appealed to the district court. Tex. Tax
Code Ann. § 42.21(a). The administrative procedures are
"exclusive" and most defenses are barred if not
raised therein. Id. § 42.09(a)(2). "[W]e
have repeatedly held that a taxpayer's failure to pursue
an [ARB] proceeding deprives the courts of jurisdiction to
decide most matters relating to ad valorem taxes."
Rourk, 194 S.W.3d at 502 (citing Matagorda
County Appraisal Dist v. Coastal Liquids Partners, LP.,
165 S.W.3d 329, 331 (Tex. 2005)). If no proper party seeks
judicial review of the board's decision within the
statutory time period, the district court does not acquire
subject-matter jurisdiction over the petition for review, and
the board's valuation becomes final when the statutory
time period expires. Storguard Invs., LLC v. Harris
County Appraisal Dist., 369 S.W.3d 605, 611-12 (Tex.
App.-Houston [1st Dist] 2012, no pet.).
determining whether a party has exhausted its administrative
remedies, we rely on the statute that created the remedy.
See Clint Indep. Sch. Dist. v. Marquez, 487 S.W.3d
538, 544 (Tex. 2016) (describing agency's statutory
authority to require exhaustion of administrative remedies
before seeking judicial recourse). Statutory construction is
an issue of law that we review de novo. Loasiaga v.
Cerda, 379 S.W.3d 248, 254-55 (Tex. 2012); Am. Hous.
Found. v. Calhoun County Appraisal Dist, 198 S.W.3d 816,
818 (Tex. App.-Corpus Christi-Edinburg 2006, pet. denied);
Franks v. Woodville Indep. Sch. Dist, 132 S.W.3d
167, 169, n.3 (Tex. App.-Beaumont 2004, no pet.). Our primary
objective is to determine and give effect to the
Legislature's intent which we determine from the entire
act, not just its isolated portions. Tex. Gov't Code Ann.
§ 312.005; State v. Gonzalez, 82 S.W.3d 322,
327 (Tex. 2002); Am. Housing Found., 198 S.W.3d at
to the jurisdiction is a dilatory plea by which a party
challenges the court's authority to determine the subject
matter of the action. Harris County v. Sykes, 136
S.W.3d 635, 638 (Tex. 2004); Bland Indep. Sch. Dist. v.
Blue, 34 S.W.3d 547, 554 (Tex. 2000). Subject matter
jurisdiction is a question of law that we review de novo.
Nueces County v. Hoff, 153 S.W.2d 45, 48
(Tex. 2004) (per curiam); Montgomery Cty. Hosp. Dist. v.
Smith, 181 S.W.3d 844, 847 (Tex. App.-Beaumont 2005, no
Remedies for ...