LOUISVILLE, Ky. – A county school board has sued Ark Encounter and the county’s property valuation administrator for undervaluing the life-size replica of Noah’s Ark in Northern Kentucky.
This undervalued property has allowed Ark Encounter to underpay taxes owed to the Grant County Board of Education, according to the lawsuit, which was filed in the Grant Circuit Court on July 1.
For the 2017 tax year, the Grant County property valuation administrator assessed Ark Encounter’s property at $48,068,200.
However, the board challenged this number in a 2018 appeal to the Grant County Board of Assessment Appeals. Using statements and documents generated by Ark Encounter, the board said the property has a true fair cash value of $130 million, which is more than 2.7 times the original valuation.
Why does this property valuation matter to the board? Taxes.
Ark Encounter paid the board $275,911.47 for the 2017 tax year. But if the property had been valued higher, the board said that it would have gotten approximately $746,200 from Ark Encounter.
According to the lawsuit, the Grant County Board of Assessment Appeals denied the school board’s requested reassessment of the property. The board subsequently appealed this decision to the Kentucky Claims Commission, which in turn granted a motion to dismiss the tax appeal jointly filed by Ark Encounter and the Grant County PVA.
The board is looking to have this decision reversed and to be recognized to have standing to appeal the assessment of Ark Encounter’s property.
Donald Ruberg, the attorney representing the board in the lawsuit, told the Courier Journal that the Ark Encounter’s property is “without a doubt” worth more than what the PVA valued it at.
He pointed to an affidavit from Ark Encounter’s accounting firm filed with the Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority that said construction and other start-up costs for the Ark amounted to more than $72 million.
“I don’t think there’s any ill motive or bad intent,” Ruberg said. “The PVA has just never been trained to assess arks. I don’t know of any PVA in the commonwealth that could.”
Meanwhile, Ark Encounter filed a motion to dismiss this lawsuit on July 23.
Grant County PVA Eli Anderson deferred all questions to the county’s attorney, Stephen L. Bates II, when contacted by the Courier Journal. The attorney declined to comment.
Melany Ethridge, a spokeswoman for Ark Encounter’s parent company, Answers in Genesis, said that the company has no comment “other than to say that as required by law, we have been faithfully paying our property taxes each year as assessed by the county’s PVA, and these monies have greatly benefited the school district.”
The Courier Journal could not reach representatives of the Grant County Board of Education for comment on multiple attempts.
This isn’t Ark Encounter’s only lawsuit. The owners of the five-story museum replica of Noah’s Ark, which was founded in 2016, sued its insurers earlier this year for refusing to cover rain damage.
Noah’s Ark is the vessel in the Genesis flood narrative through which God spares Noah, his family and two of each of the world’s animals from a world-engulfing flood.
Ark Encounter says its version in Williamstown was built to the dimensions in the Bible and is the largest timber-frame structure in the world.
Follow Ben Tobin on Twitter @TobinBen
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