Council won't budge on ticket tax for Ark Encounter, says lawsuit is possible

Published: Jul. 18, 2017 at 12:30 PM EDT
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On the agenda for the Williamstown City Council Tuesday was the discussion of a tax controversy surrounding the Ark Encounter.

In April, the council approved a 50-cent admission ticket tax to the city's tourist attractions, which includes the Ark Encounter. They say the money will go toward the city's police and fire departments as they say they've had to increase emergency services with the additional traffic in town.

However, Ark Encounter leaders say they should be exempt from the tax because they run a religious institution.

The Lexington Herald Leader reports the Ark Encounter LLC recently sold the land it sits on for ten dollars to Crosswater Canyon, a non-profit affiliate. Crosswater Canyon is registered with the IRS as a 501(c)(3), which gives them tax-exempt status.

Mark Looy the COO of The Ark Encounter released a statement Tuesday saying their conversation with the city is ongoing.

“We certainly want to contribute our fair share into the safety fund, and seek an equitable remedy. The Ark Encounter has expressed that sentiment to Williamstown's leadership. As we continue talks with city officials, we remain hopeful.”

The mayor said Ark Encounter officials wanted the city to cap the tax at $350,000 although the city budgeted for $715,000. The mayor said $300,000 covers emergency personnel and the rest goes toward capital improvement including two new police cruisers and the purchase of a used fire truck.

"On that, we aren't looking to buy a new one. We are looking at a $300,000 used one so we are pretty conservative on our figures," Skinner said.

After spending an hour in executive session Tuesday, city leaders decided they will not budge on the 50-cent ticket tax despite requests from the Ark Encounter.

The mayor said there could be a lawsuit in the future, if they do not reach an agreement.

No one from the Ark Encounter attended the city council meeting.