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Proposed Conneaut Lake Park tax repayment plan awaits approval from townships, school board

By Keith Gushard, The Meadville Tribune, Pa.
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

July 01--Conneaut Lake Park remains headed for either a tax or sheriff's sale unless the entities owed more than $900,000 in overdue real estate taxes decide to consider one group's proposal that would stop the sale.

On Monday, officials from Conneaut School District and Summit and Sadsbury townships all said their respective governing boards have no plans to take action on the tax repayment proposal being put forth by the Economic Progress Alliance of Crawford County.

On June 17, EPACC officials presented a proposal to Crawford County Board of Commissioners that outlines a plan to repay the county, school district and two townships within four years.

Conneaut Lake Park owes a combined $914,237.69 in back property taxes, interest and penalties through June 30, according to figures from the Crawford County Treasurer's Office. The back taxes date as far back as 1997.

The school district is owed $628,801.43; the county, $229,967.89 (which includes $18,547.97 in costs associated with the tax claim bureau); Summit Township, $43,392.47; and Sadsbury Township$12,075.90, according to the Treasurer's Office.

County commissioners took no action on the EPACC proposal, but they have it under review.

County commissioners have gone on record that Conneaut Lake Park will be sold for back taxes at the annual tax upset sale on Sept. 26 unless the county received an acceptable plan to repay the overdue taxes. The possibility of a sheriff's sale also remains an option, commissioners said.

At their May meetings, the supervisor boards of Summit and Sadsbury townships and the Conneaut School Board each went on record as supporting a sheriff's sale of Conneaut Lake Park to satisfy the unpaid taxes.

On Monday, William Agnew, chairman of Summit Township Board of Supervisors, said supervisors aren't expected to act the EPACC proposal at their meeting today.

Kevin Van Honk, chairman of Sadsbury Township's supervisors, also said the EPACC proposal isn't expected to be on the Sadsbury supervisors' agenda at their July 8 meeting.

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Superintendent Jarrin Sperry of Conneaut School District said the EPACC proposal isn't on the school board's agenda at its July 9 meeting.

Francis Weiderspahn Jr., chairman of county commissioners, said he wasn't expecting commissioners to review the EPACC matter at their work session today or act on the proposal at their meeting Thursday. Weiderspahn said attorneys for all four taxing bodies still are discussing the proposal.

On June 17, Mark Turner, the EPACC's executive director, presented a proposal to county commissioners explaining how the more than $900,000 in overdue property taxes would be repaid to the county, school district and two townships. Earlier that same day, the EPACC, the county's lead economic development agency, was named as the administrator of Conneaut Lake Park by the new Trustees of Conneaut Lake Park, the nonprofit public corporation that owns the amusement park.

Turner said letters outlining the EPACC proposal were sent to the school district and two townships.

"We've offered to meet and talk with them about the proposal, but we've not heard back," Turner said Monday.

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 or if property is sold, Turner said.

Turner acknowledged that if property is sold, liens on the property being sold would come into play. Liens have been placed on various properties of Conneaut Lake Park by creditors for such things as loans, utilities, services and supplies.

The total amount of liens owed by Conneaut Lake Park are in excess of $2.68 million, according to preliminary estimates from the Crawford County Prothonotary's Office, which handles civil court procedures.

Turner said the EPACC would have to negotiate with lien holders if a piece of property were sold. Any sale of property also would require approval of Crawford County Court of Common Pleas and the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General since the park is held as a public entity, Turner said.

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Taxes owed

Conneaut Lake Park has total debt estimated at $3.6 million between property taxes and liens.

Through June 30, the park owes a combined $914,237.69 in back property taxes, interest and penalties to Conneaut School District, Crawford County, Sadsbury Township and Summit Township -- dating back to 1997, according to figures from the Crawford County Treasurer's Office.

The taxes owed breaks down as:

Conneaut School District$628,801.43;

Crawford County, $229,967.89 ($211,419.92 in taxes, interest and penalties plus another $18,547.97 in costs associated with the tax claim bureau);

Summit Township, $43,392.47;

Sadsbury Township$12,075.90.

Preliminary estimates of lien filings registered with the Crawford County Prothonotary's Office are $2,686,758.01.


(c)2014 The Meadville Tribune (Meadville, Pa.)

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