Meadville Tribune

Local News

June 18, 2014

Group outlines Conneaut Lake Park back taxes repayment plan

County, school board, two townships need to approve plan

How Conneaut Lake Park amusement park will be able to repay nearly $1 million in back property taxes within a four-year period was outlined to Crawford County commissioners Tuesday, but whether the plan is going to be accepted remains to be seen.

At Tuesday’s work session of commissioners, Mark Turner, executive director of the Economic Progress Alliance of Crawford County, explained how overdue property taxes dating back to 1997 would be repaid to the county, Conneaut School District and Summit and Sadsbury townships.

As of June, Conneaut Lake Park owes $914,237.69 in back property taxes, interest and penalties to the school district, county and two townships, according to figures from the Crawford County Treasurer’s Office.

On Tuesday, the new Trustees of Conneaut Lake Park, the nonprofit public corporation that owns the amusement park, approved an administrative agreement with the EPACC to oversee park operations. The EPACC is the county’s lead economic development agency.

Under the EPACC proposal, a payment agreement would be reached with all taxing authorities with back taxes frozen at the amount due when the agreement is signed. Also, all taxes due during the length of the tax repayment agreement would have to stay current as well.

Turner said a $100,000 down payment would be paid toward the back taxes at the time of the agreement. The down payment is from proceeds of a $200,000 insurance payment from the previous Trustees of Conneaut Lake Park’s errors and omissions insurance policy.

Proceeds of fire insurance payout, about $600,000, from the 2013 Beach Club fire also would be used toward taxes. The remainder will be paid from the possible sale of Conneaut Lake Park property, Turner said.

All back taxes must be repaid within four years under the plan, Turner said.

“It could take up to four years,” Turner told commissioners.

Crawford County commissioners have stated publicly that Conneaut Lake Park is slated for back taxes on Sept. 26 unless they receive an acceptable plan with a reasonable time frame to repay the overdue taxes.

The possibility of a sheriff’s sale is also an option, commissioners said.

Commissioner Chairman Francis Weiderspahn Jr. said the county is only one of four taxing bodies involved in the matter.

“The two townships and the school district, we’ll have to confer with them (about accepting the proposal),” Weiderspahn said at the work session.

At their respective May meetings, both Summit Township and Sadsbury Township boards of supervisors unanimously approved resolutions supporting proceeding with a sheriff’s sale of Conneaut Lake Park to satisfy the unpaid property tax bill. Their actions took place before the EPACC plan publicly was released last week.

Conneaut School Board had not taken any formal action on the matter.

Turner said the proposed EPACC plan is a way to repay the tax bill and get the park improved from an economic development and quality of life standpoint.

He also said he understood the various taxing bodies want and expect the unpaid tax amounts due to them.

“It’s legitimate to say we’re done,” Turner said if the four boards elect not to go forward with the EPACC tax repayment plan. The property then would head to a tax or sheriff’s sale.

Following the work session, commissioners said they expected to take no action on the matter at their meeting Thursday. Weiderspahn said the county’s attorneys would confer with attorneys from the two townships and school district before commissioners would take action.

Commissioners are expected to take action on the EPACC plan in July.

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