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Officials from ExxonMobil announced Wednesday that they will not protest the state's 2010 tax assessment on its Lockwood refinery.

“After careful consideration of the potential uncertainty our tax protest could have on Lockwood School, (Billings) School District 2, Yellowstone County and the local community, we have elected not to appeal the Billings refinery 2010 property tax assessment,” wrote Jon R. Wetmore, the refinery's manager in a statement.

Reacting to the news, Lockwood Superintendent Eileen Johnson praised the company for listening to the concerns of the community.

“I'm relieved and very grateful that they took us into consideration,” she said.

Exxon officials, including tax experts from Exxon's Houston office, sat with Lockwood officials earlier this month to discuss the impact a tax protest would have on the school.

The property tax that Exxon pays in Lockwood makes up 44 percent of the community's tax base, which would have cost the Lockwood School District $900,000 — roughly the equivalent of 18 jobs — had the company decided to protest.

In SD2, the protest would have cost the high school district $237,000.

Pam Malek, spokeswoman for the refinery, said the hit that area schools would have taken was a serious discussion for Exxon.

“We really did give it a lot of consideration,” she said. “That was our primary consideration.”

In his statement, Wetmore said the company continues to work with the Montana Department of Revenue regarding the assessment and, depending on the talks, could protest next year.

“If the 2011 refinery valuation remains excessive, ExxonMobil fully intends to use the appeals process to ensure we have a fair and reasonable assessment,” he said.

Contact Rob Rogers at rrogers@billingsgazette.com or 657-1231.

Contact Rob Rogers at rrogers@billingsgazette.com or 657-1231.

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