About a month ago, we learned that the Grant County Board of Education was suing the state’s Property Valuation Administration for saying Ark Encounter was worth just over $46 million in 2017. That amount dictated how much money the parent company of Answers in Genesis had to pay in taxes — some of which which would ultimately go to the local schools.
The Board of Education was saying that $46 million was waaaaaaay lower than it should have been. By their calculations, it was worth around $130 million. Had the proper value been assessed, they said, the district would have received nearly $750,000. Instead, they got about $275,000. That’s about half a million dollars students were allegedly shortchanged by the state.
There are some technical aspects of the lawsuit (including legal standing) that may get in the way of the Board’s potential success, but in the meantime, Ark Encounter — which, to be clear, isn’t being sued — is on the warpath insisting that the state’s assessment is accurate. They don’t owe a damn penny more than they’ve already given.
Earlier this month, Mark Looy, the CCO of Ark Encounter, wrote in to the Grant County News to challenge the public perception of the lawsuit by saying they have always paid their taxes. (Headline: “Ark has always paid its taxes.” It’s not online.)
… Some readers of the Grant County News might mistakenly believe that the Ark Encounter does not pay its fair share of taxes. That is not the case at all.
In point of fact, we estimate that in 2019, the Ark Encounter will pay in excess of $320,000 in taxes to the Grant County Schools alone, not counting the other taxing districts.
The independent PVA office has set the assessment that determines that the Ark should pay, and we pay that bill faithfully. Yet, careless reporters with other newspapers and atheist bloggers will want you to believe we have done something wrong. That is simply not true.
Literally zero people have said Ark Encounter isn’t paying what it owes. Mark Looy is rebutting a claim nobody has ever made. The problem is that the property bill the state sent to Ark Encounter is way too low. Sure, Ark Encounter paid it, but the bill should have been higher. That’s not Ark Encounter’s fault. They’re just the beneficiaries of the state’s incompetence. That’s why the lawsuit goes against the PVA, not the Creationists.
I’m not surprised that a Creationist, unable to respond to an allegation, made up his own question to answer. Logic isn’t his strong suit.
Now Matt Morgan, the superintendent of Grant County Schools, has responded to Looy’s lie with some facts. The article isn’t online either, but Morgan makes clear why this lawsuit is both necessary and good for the students:
There is the misconception that the district is suing the Ark over non-payment of taxes. That is not the case. The Ark has paid every tax bill that it has been presented. The district has been and continues to question the assessed value of the Ark, on which those taxes are based.
By statute, a school district can increase its revenue from year to year by 4 percent. This is usually done by an increase in property taxes. However, if the assessed values in the district increase by a great enough amount, then the district can receive its 4-percent increase in revenue and the taxpayers in the district will pay less in property tax due to those increased assessments district wide.
That’s an incredible claim right there. Since there’s a cap on how much money the district can receive via property taxes, if they could get the money through Ark Encounter (via an accurate assessment), everyone else would have to pay a little less. It’s a win-win-win situation for everyone except Ark Encounter, which would slightly suffer as a result of a more accurate assessment. (The facts always seem to hurt them.)
We’ll have to see if the lawsuit gets any traction. Either way, the status quo is that Creationists have found another way to screw over students. The kids deserve better.
(Thanks to Dan for the link)